Plans to allow police chiefs from overseas to lead forces in England and Wales have been announced by the Home Office.Proposed reforms to police recruitment will also allow successful candidates to join the force at superintendent level for the first time, while others could be ‘fast-tracked’ from constable to inspector.
Policing minister Damian Green said the recruitment plan, first proposed by former rail regulator Tom Winsor following a review of employment conditions, would ensure the police were able to ‘meet the demands’ placed on forces. The changes, which are now open to consultation, will reform recruitment while being ‘fair’ to existing officers, he said.
Choosing chief constables to head forces was ‘of the highest importance’, Green said, and the existing eligibility criteria for senior officers would be amended to include service in an equivalent role overseas.
Once the reforms are in place, police recruits could also be fast-tracked to inspector rank within three years, while a new direct-entry scheme would allow people to enter at the superintendent rank after 16 months of training.
These schemes would bring ‘fresh thinking from other sectors’ into the police force, Green said.
The changes are part of ‘a coherent programme of police reform’, he added, alongside changes such as the introduction of police and crime commissioners.
However, the Police Federation, which represents frontline officers, said the shake-up ‘could leave the public vulnerable’.
Vice chair Steve White said the changes could lead to a supermarket manager entering the rank of superintendent without serving time at the constable rank.
It was unknown ‘how someone without policing experience would tackle major incidents’, he added.
‘You have to look at the risk to the public, at a superintendent level you could be overseeing a public order incident, football match or firearms situation – would you want a manager from a supermarket dealing with that?
‘Until you have turned up to a domestic incident, had to deal with a road traffic accident and spoken to the family of someone who has died or been injured, you don’t know what it takes to be a cop.’
The Association of Chief Police Officers said forces were ‘not short of talent’.
Sir Peter Fahy, Acpo lead on workforce development, said today’s proposals would not bring about the changes required.
There were questions about how any direct entry scheme would work in practice, he added. ‘All chief constables have served on the beat, experiencing the reality of day-to-day operational policing with the public. This is the model used by other countries who have followed the British system, such as the USA.
‘Chief officers have delivered the budget reductions asked of them while maintaining the protection of the public, demonstrating techniques of business transformation and change management which show the service is not short of these skills.’