WMPeople: Student Officer, PC Elle Harper

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Apprenticeships are often associated with young people, fresh out of school or college but here at West Midlands Police that’s often not the case.

The majority of our new student officers join us on the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) programme, in partnership with Staffordshire University – regardless of their age or previous work experience.

Our new recruits start their careers at Tally Ho, just like all those who have gone before, but the study side of their three-year training is delivered by the university and once they complete the student journey they graduate with a BSc in Professional Policing Practice.

One of those students is Elle Harper, who began her career with us in 2018 having previously worked as a dog grooming salon manager. Elle took on a staff role before applying to be an officer early last year and has just started her second year of training. She is currently part of the Neighbourhood Taskforce team in Birmingham East as part of her series of placements, or ‘rotations’ as they are also known, across the force.

Here, as we mark National Apprenticeships Week 2021, Elle describes her first year as a student police officer, in her own words.

“Ever since I was a young child I wanted to be a police officer and was determined to make it my life career! I worked at the dog grooming salon for five years before I successfully applied to WMP, which was a bit different to this!

“I first joined as a custody officer assistant so I could gain some experience and knowledge as I’m the first in my family to join the police so didn’t really have anyone to ask about the role, and just after a year there it cemented it for me that being a police officer was the career for me; so I joined via the PCDA route!

“I know it gets said a lot, but every single day is different, no two days are the same and the immense pride I feel in helping people in need and bringing justice to those that deserve it is the highest honour. Yes, it is one of the most challenging jobs out there, however we also protect the most vulnerable and have one of the most rewarding jobs there is.

“If you are sitting on the fence as to whether to join, DO IT! You won’t regret it!

“The PCDA route is a fantastic opportunity to do an amazing job, whilst getting a degree and learning new skills without the worry of a huge debt.

“The lectures and teaching from the university along the way have given me a lot more in-depth knowledge about the job and is often taught by experienced retired police officers so it is very interesting to get their views on policing today compared to when they joined themselves. Both the university and police are also very supportive and helpful if you have any issues either in your personal or work life.

“You get out of training school and onto the streets quicker than the old route, which was a bonus for me as I love practical learning and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. However you’re not dropped in at the deep end, you have dedicated trained tutors who guide you through to independence after your second rotation without babying you. From the first week of being put out on the streets I was attending jobs on blue lights and arresting people for offences such as attempt murder!

“Due to the fact you move to different teams and different areas every 15 weeks you get a wide range of experience and knowledge from lots of different people, from different walks of life. You are able to see and take part in each area of policing, seeing how all the different teams work unanimously to reach a shared goal. This is also helpful if you ever need guidance in the future, you always have someone to turn to in each department and all with different levels of expertise.

“I have also been able to do attachments with specialised units such as the dog unit and I have a firearms day coming up soon. I have also managed to have a public order uniform fitting and I am awaiting a course! I would love to do an attachment with a traffic unit in the future, which I have been told is something I can do. Just because you’re a student does not mean you can’t get involved in specialised areas and have opportunities to be involved in “Gucci jobs”.

“There are some incidents you go to which are really upsetting and are difficult to deal with, however this job has enabled me to grow as a person, gain more confidence and interact with different cultures and backgrounds, expanding my knowledge and opening my eyes a great deal.

“It is a very challenging role as you have to create a good work life/uni life/home life balance as you have a full time job, portfolio and assignments to do, but being proactive and keeping on top of things ensures you stay on track.

“I am loving this change of career and in the future I would love to be a dog handler so, after getting past my probation phase, this will be my next goal!

“A lot of people are quite shocked when they find out what I do for a living and what I intend to do in the future but even if I make just a small difference to peoples’ lives and also make my family proud then that’s what it is all about for me!”


Visit our PC Recruitment page today to see more about how you could follow Elle onto our student officer programme: https://jobs.west-midlands.police.uk/police-officer-recruitment/