A FORMER boss of Britain’s biggest policing union has slammed revamped recruitment rules.

Guidelines which will apply to the government’s target of hiring 20,000 police officers nationally are set to see all new entrants either join with a degree or study towards one while training.

But Steve White, a former chairman of the Police Federation and the current Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner (PCVC) for Durham, fears the requirements could overlook "future leaders" and "high quality candidates".

He said: “My concern is they have ended up focusing on providing qualifications for people joining the service while forgetting the people already in the service who could be our future leaders.

“I don’t think the degree qualification will have an impact on our ability to attract high quality candidates.

“But I think it could also have the opposite effect in that it could deter other high quality candidates who don’t want to go through a three-year degree.”

White, who took over as PCVC from the late Ron Hogg, was speaking at a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel for County Durham and Darlington.

Durham Constabulary is currently planning to recruit 68 trainees, with about half due to replace other officers leaving or retiring from the force.

White, who called degree plans "barmy" while Police Federation chairman, also criticised British policing’s record of training and promoting from within.

“Forces are particularly bad at developing their own staff,” he added.

“In my experience of 30 years, advancement and promotion has been seen as a dirty word, we do the same check-box exercises which can lead to quite bad leadership.”

Other forces around the country have experimented with direct entry schemes, where senior workers in other industries join forces at inspector or even superintendent level with no prior experience.

But White claimed such a policy would pose "significant’"risks to a force of Durham’s size.

He said: “In a force like [London’s] Metropolitan Police, if you have direct entry and it doesn’t work out you still have a lot of others who can take that role up.

“In Durham it could leave you high and dry.”