Civilian police chiefs - whatever next?

28 March 2017

A proposal to parachute civilians into chief constable jobs has met with derision across the Federation.

The Home Office has launched a consultation which could see business leaders, army veterans and senior civil servants ultimately occupy the top jobs across all 43 forces in England and Wales.

But the plans have been attacked with Federation chair Steve White saying that officers need on-the-ground knowledge before they can lead a force.

He said: “Officers need to fully understand what it takes to be an officer in the 21st century.

“Even as a chief officer they need first-hand experience of responding in an operational capacity to incidents they would not encounter in any other walk of life.”

Mr White said the police service already had a large talent pool and there should be a focus on tapping potential that already existed.

“While the pace of policing and its demands are changing quickly, there are already very talented senior officers in the service whose skills and experience fit the brief, or officers whose talents could be cultivated to become the police leaders of the future.”

He added: “Issues outlined in a recent chief officer appointments survey, led by the College of Policing, outlined barriers for chief officer recruitment including: the ability to adapt to different force cultures and values, logistical hurdles and the transparency and fairness of the current selection processes. These barriers need lifting first to enhance the talent that already exists.”

A consultation on the plans began last week with the NPCC and College of Policing. The police service already has direct entry for inspectors and superintendents, with mixed results. And recently plans for direct entry detectives were also floated.

Adam Thomson, the former RAF regiment squadron leader, who joined North Yorkshire police in 2014, was criticised after he compared lower-ranking officers to binmen. He questioned the need to go on patrol during his training, saying: “If I was training to be the leader of the council, I wouldn’t be asked to do a few mornings with the bin lorry first.” He apologised later.