Police forces across the UK need a national framework for vetting new recruits to ensure criminals do not become officers, senior police chiefs have warned.
The call, backed by HR leaders, followed publication of a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which revealed a catalogue of “vetting failures” across the UK’s police forces. The report highlighted 40 cases where unsuitable applicants have already been employed by the police.
A worrying loophole in the checking process could mean that criminals could be recruited as police officers, the Raising the Standard report warned.
Under the current system, applicants from the European Union can become police officers if they have lived in the UK for at least three years and have no criminal record. But the system does not take into account applicants who have originated from a country that does not carry out national security checks.
“In effect, current policy means that forces can reject a UK applicant with a caution from three years and a day ago, but they can accept a war criminal from a country where checks are not possible,” the report said.
HMIC inspector Jane Stichbury said the damage that could be caused from one mistake could not be under-estimated.
“The importance of achieving and maintaining high professional standards in the police cannot be overstated. That’s why we recommend the establishment of clear national standards,” she said.
David Lindley, vice-chairman of the professional standards committee at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “We must establish a national complaints recording standard, to develop a credible performance regime and to reconcile the several different oversight regimes that have an interest in this area.”
Andrew Marston, force personnel director at the Greater Manchester Police, admitted that the vetting process for overseas recruits was precarious. “It is difficult to vet foreign nationals because we have to rely on overseas agencies. Sometimes this can cause problems,” he said.
David Williams, director of personnel at West Midlands Police, agreed. “Vetting systems, like any other recruitment process, rely on people telling the truth,” he said. “We have a range of internal procedures, but we can’t always say it’s 100% foolproof.”