Student police officers take part in a series of exercises where college students play the role of members of the public. The officers gain confidence and competence through realistic assessments in public places, while the college students, who are on public service courses, gain valuable experience and evidence for their own qualifications.

How you can use this

Although this example is based on police Student Officer training, there are wider applications for the principles involved:

  • retail training providers could use this approach to train learners in dealing with customers
  • college students could be used for role play in a care or nursing setting
  • performing arts students might role play for psychology students, or help to put across training in areas such as equal opportunities
  • one group of college learners can help another, for example, by eating in cafeterias operated by catering learners, by acting as drawing or photographic models or by having hairdressing or beauty therapy treatments.

The key in adapting this good practice is 'collaboration'. In particular it involves a partnership approach between colleges and police forces to the benefit of both. The critical idea is to ask others to work with you on specific programmes, rather than assume that they have little to offer you, or vice versa.

The design of the training and assessment exercises is based on a strategic view of what they should accomplish, rather than a continuation of traditional ways of operating.

There could also be collaboration between training providers to place potential learners appropriately, or to share equipment or other resources.

How it works

During Phase 3 of their training programme student police officers from the West Yorkshire Police are assessed using a varied and realistic series of simulations and exercises. The programme is managed by the West Yorkshire Police Force, based in Wakefield.

The exercises also involve public services students from local further education colleges. The training scheme is subject to continuing quality assurance procedures. Student police officers take part in these exercises at regular intervals.

  • the exercises take place in public spaces, following a detailed risk assessment of hazards or difficulties
  • the exercises are carefully designed to simulate different situations and to provide realistic training and assessment of the learners' competence
  • one set of exercises took place in an industrial estate and another in a town park
  • after the exercises the Student Officers write up their case notes and are given direct experience of working with the Criminal Justice Support Service
  • the exercises allow them to apply their skills directly in the use of officer safety tactics
  • they receive immediate verbal feedback on their performance, reinforced subsequently with written comments.

Added bonus

As well as providing 'real life' situations for the student police officers to operate in, the presence of more than 20 police officers in one area has meant major reductions in crime. The effect of saturating an area with a highly visible police presence has been so significant that the Divisional Detective Chief Inspector has requested information about the dates and location of events, so that a co-ordinated approach can be taken to maximise their impact. During one exercise, three people were arrested for possession of illegal drugs after the probationary officers carried out real stop-and-search procedures.

Training in public places in this way also boosts the student police officers' confidence and allows the officers to operate more effectively when they start work. It sometimes leads to joint working and collaboration when back-up is requested. This is a key aspect of instilling the need for teamwork in the Student Officers.

Postive Feedback

Feedback from the Student Officers has been extremely positive. They like being able to apply their learning directly. As the college students involved in the role plays do not necessarily know police procedures, the probationary officers get a better understanding of how people respond to the police in real life.

Most of the probationary officers appreciate that their training is non-residential. They report that this method of training has allowed them to maintain a better work-life balance and there has been 100 per cent retention on the scheme.

Some of the exercises are recorded on video for training purposes, and a compilation video is used to celebrate the learners' success at the end of their course.

Successful partnership

A well-managed partnership approach has been critical to the success of the Student Officer training. For example, the police forces supply not only assessors, but the stationery and forms used in the exercises. The initiative to use college students in the role-play exercises came originally from a further education college. The training team at West Yorkshire Police responded positively to the approach, and incorporated the college students into exercises to challenge the Student Officers.