Robyn Vinter: The “bobby tax” will massively damage the Met

New police officers must pay more than £1,000 for a certificate before they even start

Many of those wanting to join the Metropolitan Police are being put off by a £1,300 certificate they must have before they’re even able to start training.

The new qualification, the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing (CKP), has been dubbed the “bobby tax” as it is compulsory for anyone wishing to join the Met and many others of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

A College of Policing spokesman told me this morning, contrary to other reports, that applicants at the Met don’t need to have the qualification before they apply, but they must have it before they start their police training.

That means before they’ve even set foot in the building on their first day of training, they need to fork out up to £1,300 (although the spokesman told me it’s usually between £750 and £1,000) and spend 300 hours studying to gain the CKP.

There’s no doubt that those from working class backgrounds or graduates with thousands of pounds of existing debt are being put off by this – and a number of news websites have interviewed people who have decided not to apply after seeing this new entry requirement.

London MP Siobhain McDonagh said the Met was already 2,000 officers short when she asked the prime minister about the effect of the bobby tax yesterday.

David Cameron told the House of Commons he didn’t think it was a barrier, which is disappointing to hear, as not many Londoners, particularly those who are unemployed or recently graduated, have a spare £1,000 kicking about.

At a time when the head of the Met police Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said more work was needed to get the Met “looking like London”, it’s extremely damaging to do anything that would restrict the scope of the applicants – particularly for something that can be so easily covered as part of an officer’s basic training.

Having a police force that represents the city we live in is vital to justice and safety. Just as having an unrepresentative proportion of white police officers was one of the leading causes of institutional racism at the Met, having an unrepresentative number of officers from middle-class backgrounds will skew the institution’s view of poorer people.

The Met is now working on tackling institutional racism by hiring more ethnic minority officers. It should do the same with background too. Our police force should represent us – rich, poor, black, white, male, female, young, old.

As a Londoner, if I were to report a crime I’d want the most talented and capable police officers on the case, rather than just the ones who could stump up £1,000 before they even start.

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