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Strategic command course to be given 'root and branch' review

College of Policing lead tells Police Oracle "nothing is off the table"
Published - 05/07/2022 By - Chris Smith

How the Police National Assessment Centre selects officers for leadership roles will be changed – including the initial work that enables officers to go on the Strategic Command Course.

Interest groups including Police and Crime Commissioners, the Police Superintendents’ Association and the National Black Police Association will be consulted by the College as part of the review.

Under the current system, officers are invited to apply for the course, with Chief Constables from potential candidates' local force as the key decision-makers.

The College has signalled that is set to end.

A key figure in the decision-making will be Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney who has just begun her secondment to the College to lead the course.

It follows heavy criticism from HM Inspectorate that the top tier of policing is too reliant on white, middle aged men who too often are drawn from the ranks within their own force.

There are currently 12 women chiefs in England and Wales but no BAME ones. 

Chief Executive Andy Marsh told Police Oracle: “We’ve started a root and branch review of the Police National Assessment Centre and the Strategic Command Course. It’s ambitious; nothing is off the table.”

He added that the starting point will be how decisions are made on who should go forward for the course.

He said: “It’s not delivering what the Service needs. However good the course is and however fair the selection process is, it’s not delivering the flow of diverse talent the service needs.”

It's not the first time conerns have been raised.

A chief officer survey produced by the College revealed: "Chief constables and potential applicants expressed concern regarding the perceived fairness, integrity and transparency of current selection processes.

"Responses focused on barriers including ‘favoured internal candidate in applicant pool’, inconsistencies in support available, with some being able to access mentoring support while others cited a lack of support from their existing force in comparison to colleagues."

And following a wave of retirements, Police and Crime Commissioners have complained that they are unable to appoint chief constables with confidence because there are now not enough officers to make selection panels a fair competition.

Leicestershire PCC Rupert Matthews raised concern with Police Oracle after struggling to find a replacement for CC Simon Cole.

He said: “I am appalled that you can only apply to be a chief officer if your Chief Constable agrees.”

Chiefs too have warned that public trust is at risk because forces cannot meet the Peelian values of representing their communities because there isn’t enough diversity in the top ranks.

The Police Superintendents’ Association has resorted to developing its own mentoring schemes for BAME officers in a bid to break the glass ceiling at the top of policing.

Leicestershire’s PCC said the challenging environment chiefs now operate in meant the process for training them needed to improve.

He welcomed the review and told Police Oracle: “There are some highly talented and great leaders in the police service who preside over one of the most challenging professions in some of the most difficult times.

“Outstanding forces very often have outstanding leaders. Equally there some that may not have the stature and strategic leadership to be able to overcome the many challenges,” he added.

“In my view, the service needs to better at active talent management so that colleagues at the level of Superintendent should be able to confidently apply to become a chief officer and it should be based on merit, leadership experience and accreditation.”

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