The officers started their policing careers with West Midlands Police in 2019 as a group of new recruits who became the first across our regional police partnership to join the Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP). In October, the group of 38 completed their studies and achieved their Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
The officers have trained for two years, spending time learning all aspects of policing on rotations in West Midlands Police's busy Public Protection Units, Force Criminal Investigation Department, Neighbourhood Policing Units and frontline Response teams, while also completing academic studies at our University.
23 of those pioneering DHEP recruits were joined by friends and family to celebrate the completion of their studies and were congratulated by both Staffordshire University and West Midlands Police.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL led the ceremony with Assistant Chief Constable Richard Baker at Tally Ho, West Midlands Police's Learning and Development facility.
Leaders of both the University and the force celebrated and reflected on the students’ achievements, as they joined a brand new course, trained in a new career, juggled practical police training with academic studies – and all during a global pandemic.
Speaking to the graduates, Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL said: "Here at Staffordshire University, working with West Midlands Police we made it our priority to support you to complete your higher education journey.
It was never going to be easy, and yet, here you are today, crossing that finish line. To keep your focus on your university work, whilst learning on the job and adapting to a changed world took tremendous resilience, tenacity and determination. Qualities that will stand you in good stead in the future.
"We are a Connected University made up of talented students, and we’re honoured to have been with you for the start of your policing adventure.
"But your experience, of course, has been so different to that of most students. You were not ‘locked down’. You had to go to work and you were probably undertaking your training at one of the most challenging times that your force can remember."
Among the graduates were two award winners. PC Ashfield, along with other WMP colleagues, received a Chief Constable's Commendation for tenacity and diligence in relation to an incident in December 2020. PC Evans and colleagues received a Royal Humane Society Award for their hard work and passion for preserving life.
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital) Andrew Proctor said: "We at the University feel privileged to play a role in supporting officers along their professional career journeys and I have personally enjoyed hearing about your experiences and so many of your achievements.
"Such awards are only given for truly outstanding police work. To achieve this recognition so early in service is nothing short of inspirational."
These officers may be the first but there are hundreds who will also be reaching the end of their student officer training over the coming months. Further cohorts of DHEP student officers will graduate early in 2022 while our first-ever cohort of Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) recruits will complete their three years of training and formally graduate later in 2022.