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What's good for recruits is good for chiefs: Direct entry proposals sparks debate

Ex-DAC says ?laughable competition? for appointments means the time has come for direct entry at the top.
Published - 28/03/2017 By - John Toner - Police Oracle

If direct entry is suitable for detectives and inspectors there can be no argument against it being used to find chief officers.

That is the view of former Met deputy assistant commissioner David Gibertson who says it is “nonsense on stilts” to suggest otherwise.

Under new Home Officer proposals applicants from outside policing may be considered for chief officer roles in the future.

A consultation on the plans is thought to be underway and the Home Office says choosing police leaders is of the "highest importance", while the College of Policing added individuals would be required to undergo "appropriate training".

Former DAC Gilbertson said: “In real terms I am very much in favour of it, if it works at other ranks then it must work at chief constable as well, it is nonsense on stilts to say otherwise.

“The role of a chief officer is to inspire, direct, set ethical standards and most of all to lead. His or her skill-set does not require the ability to, or to have had experience of arresting drunks outside a problem pub on a Saturday night.  A chief officer has others who can do that better.

“His or her skills are, or should be, at the high strategic level, not at the tactical level. Sadly too many of today's chief officers micro-manage to disguise their inadequacies when faced with strategic challenges.

“There is an abundant supply of well-qualified, strategic leaders, with all the right skills who have been 'tested in the fire', in commerce, industry, the civil service and the military, who we should be adding to the reservoir of talent from which future chief officers should be selected.

“There is no sustainable argument against direct entry chief officers if one accepts that it is appropriate further down the command chain.

“Don't forget that the Civil Nuclear Constabulary has had two direct entry chief constables in succession, and the world is still spinning on its axis.

“Direct entry for chief officers is an idea whose time has come, not least because there is a paucity of true leadership talent in England and Wales today, as the laughable competitions for appointments with only one or two applicants has shown.”

Mr Gilbertson went on to warn the selection for such posts should not be left to “parochial” PCCs alone who often display “flawed” judgement and neither should it be left to the College of Policing which has “little credibility”.

Instead the former DAC says the selection process will requires “strong input” from the Home Office and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies.

Meanwhile, deputy director of the Police Foundation Gavin Hales believes the proposal raises a number of important questions for policing.

He said: “I think in broad terms the first question is why now? Particularly given we have got legislation which allows PCCs to appoint chief constables from outside the United Kingdom which has not been used.

“The second thing to consider is that we are in middle of reforms to policing and fire services which leaves a degree of uncertainty.

“One has to ask the questions; ‘who is calling for this?’ Why they think anyone would appoint a direct entry chief constable? Who would apply? Has the Home Office had a lot of interest in this from outside policing?

“In a sense you could argue that the leadership challenge this seeks to address is most acute in forces who have had negative HMIC reports. Arguably, those forces are less likely to take a risk like this and appoint someone in this way.”

Several senior figures took to social media to express their views on the proposals including director general of the National Crime Agency Lynne Owens who wondered about the dearth of applications when talent in policing “is not the issue”. 


Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Dave Thompson was a little more forthright with his opinion, adding: 



Meanwhile the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, Steve White, found humour in the news, adding: 



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