Stuart Cheek is a DCI in Hertfordshire Police Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit.
What was your experience of education before starting on your recent course/programme?
Before enrolling on my degree I hadn’t studied for 20 years, I had my GCSEs from school but had always felt further and higher education wasn’t really for me. I had tried Sixth Form College, studying briefly for A-Levels, but left for a career in the Metropolitan Police Service and didn’t look back.
What led you to choosing your course/programme?
I had a varied career in the MET before joining Hertfordshire Police, starting my career in Hackney before progressing into detective roles within the investigation side of policing. Over the years I’ve worked in murder investigation, domestic extremism investigation, as part of the Operation Trident team investigating gang incidents, before moving into child and domestic abuse investigation.
For while I was thinking about further study. I thought gaining a degree would not only help me in promotion opportunities but also help me gain insight into the evidence base that surrounds policing, I was really interested in why we do what we do. I also thought I could contribute to that evidence base with the experiential knowledge gained from a career in policing.
Did you use the College of Policing Credit Estimator or a University RPL/RPEL process to recognise you policing experience?
When looking at possible study routes I had to consider the cost of the programme but also how flexible the institution would be with policing sometimes being an unpredictable profession.
When exploring study routes I came across the recognition of prior learning (RPL) scheme. RPL is offered by many universities and allows you to have your prior experience and learning recognised in academic credit. This meant I was able to use RPL to credit the first half of my undergraduate degree and would only need to study for the latter half. The college of policing have more information on this and you can see how much credit you could gain towards undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
Tell us about the programme you undertook?
With all of this in mind I found Canterbury Christ Church University and became interested in their BSc Policing programme, I knew the university offered RPL as a route and I signed up. The course was comprised of modules that covered criminology, policing and society, transformational change in policing and evidence based policing. Towards the end of my three years at Canterbury I completed a dissertation exploring the police response to victims and witnesses with serious mental health issues.
How is the programme helping you in your career?
Undoubtedly gaining my degree helped me in promotion as the experience gave me a wider appreciation of the evidence base in policing. Similarly the journey I went on at Canterbury gave me the confidence to ask questions about why we police in a certain way and to try new ideas and help contribute to the evidence base.
What benefits has your force seen as a result of you undertaking this course?
I think the force have benefited in learning about practice elsewhere, they have been able to try things differently but also realise what we were already doing well. My experience along with others who have undertaken similar activities has also led us away from silo working and to a more collaborative exchange of ideas both within the force but also nationally.
What would your advice be to police officers and staff contemplating further study?
I would say go for it, you won’t regret it. I’m sure it’ll broaden your horizons and you’ll find it a fulfilling experience. I would seek out support in your own force and whilst that support cannot always be financial, help with time off for studying can be a huge help.