Police Training and Recruitment


Menu from Middlemoor.

Every year newly recruited police officers go through training at Police Training Colleges.

The Police Training College at Middlemoor, in Exeter, will no doubt have played its part in this.

The College at Middlemoor was first opened on the 17th May 1973. Our Museum archive holds many records from students who have trained and studied here over the years.

Some of these items include note books, course handbooks, sports events and activities records, as well as a wealth of photographs.

We also hold pamphlets, invitation letters and photographs of the opening ceremony of the Training College in 1973 which was carried out by Princess Alexandra.

The College offered a new place for new male recruits to be trained that was right next to police headquarters and could cover all areas of Police work.

Today, training for new recruits in Devon and Cornwall is mixed gender, and held at the Headquarters Training College at Middlemoor.

For Constables, it consists of eight months’ training and a two-year probationary period. For Special Constables it consists of three months of online learning, practical weekends training, and a two-year probationary period or less, dependent on the number of tours of duty.

For PCSOs, it consists of eighteen weeks’ training and a fifteen week probationary period. Recruits receive their warrant card and uniform in the first two months of training.


Police Training Centre at Chantmarle.

Before the Training College at Middlemoor was built the prospective male Police Officers of Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had to travel to Dorset to train at the Police Training Centre at Chantmarle.

Women Police Officers were trained at either Ryton on Dunsmore or, as was the case for most female Devon and Cornwall officers, Cwmbran. This was when gender segregated training was still the norm.

Chantmarle is and was very different from the purpose-built College at Middlemoor.

Contrary to some documents, there was actually a swimming pool built at Chantmarle, as well as usable classrooms. Prior to the swimming pool, swimming training was carried out in the moat! Chantmarle was a collection of manor houses which is now a grade II Historic Park, gardens and houses.

Chantmarle means ‘the Blackbird song’ but the manor gained the name through Robert Chantmarle who first lived there in 1212.

It became a male-only Police Training Centre in 1951 after it was acquired by the Home Office, and it taught cadets all they needed to know, as well as running Sergeants, Detectives and other courses for serving Officers.

In the beginning, it followed the formula set by the first national Police college for England and Wales, which in 1948 was at Ryton.

The courses were mostly for Sergeants and those who wished to command, taught by incumbent Police Officers and commanders.

These courses resulted from the fact that commanders were growing inexperienced in their roles, because traditionally recruitment of commanders was by promotion through the ranks.

HO Circulars we hold tell of this issue. However, as time passed, Chantmarle took on cadets as well as teaching commanders.

We hold a range of material from Chantmarle including students note books, course programmes, certificates from courses, teaching material, exams, module information, etc.

There was a variety of courses on offer here, including first aid, shooting, promotion courses and driving.

Before the Training Colleges

Before Training centres and colleges were established many of the new recruits had to learn on the job and would apply to their local borough or city force.

Many of the applicants were also ex-military and the Police force mirrored much of how the armed forces worked.

We hold many of the old student notebooks and pocket diaries that the new applicants and officers had to carry with them on duty.

They were used similarly to how Lieutenants in the Navy wrote their daily logs.

They would write the beat they were on, or what duty/tasks they had to carry out, and then what occurred and what they had learnt.

They would also attend lectures from Officers in which they would need to take notes and pass exams in.

Many of the student notebooks we hold look into the study themes of diction, mathematics and the role of the police officer.

We also know that many of the officers were ex-military from the end of service commemorative certificates we hold for them, which outline the military service they had and also the time with the Police.

There were still training events and days at various locations, such as driving training, First Aid training and lifesaving training, however these were for serving Officers and not cadets.

The evolution of Police recruit training has been one of on-the- job learning and various courses once in the job, to slowly becoming more and more academic.

The first national college for Police took many of its subjects and ideas from university courses, but all of its lecturers were Police employees.

These days various Police-related and criminology study courses can be taken at universities and Police Training Colleges.

The Police recruit of today undergoes far more training before they are allowed on the street, than they would have done 80 years ago.

Our Collections hold material which highlights this evolution in training and is viewable on appointment and at the Heritage Centre in Exeter.

Editor’s Note

Our archive requires more documentation on female training and recruitment because of historic archival practices that underrepresented female experiences and involvement in policing. We would love to hear from female police officers and staff who served with the Devon and Cornwall police, and record their experiences, so that our archive can progress in its goal of being much more representative of all those who worked for the force. Please contact Miranda at mirandastevens@dcpolicingmuseum.co.uk

Words by Alistair Stone