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'Loss of wisdom' amid chief constable exodus

At least six forces will soon be competing for the same talent
Published - 09/05/2018 By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle

Some 12 per cent of police forces in England and Wales are now recruiting for a new chief constable, just over a year after warnings were aired over a lack of available talent to fill vacancies.

Recent weeks have seen five chief constables and a Met assistant commissioner announce they are leaving the police service.

These include the national leads for some of the most high profile and challenging portfolios – digital policing, volunteering, aviation and performance management.

North Wales Chief Constable Mark Polin, the head of the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, is also leaving the service.

Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Mike Barton has been in post since 2012 and in policing for 38 years, and is not retiring.

He told Police Oracle: “The loss of wisdom at the top is a concern. It is a worry but the next generation, with our support, will have to do the business.”

On why chiefs might want to leave, he said: “That there are so many changes to pension rules means sometimes people have to make decisions that are best for their families. I know it can be the case that it isn't financially sound to stay, you would effectively be paying the government to stay in."

There have already been concerns raised about the lack of candidates for chief constable jobs, with a Police Oracle analysis revealing most chiefs appointed in 2015 had been the only candidate for their job.

Last year chiefs noted an imminent shortage of would-be chief officers being trained to meet upcoming vacancies, but the NPCC urged the government not to introduce direct entry at the top level of the service.

Former British Transport Police chief Andy Trotter told Police Oracle: “I don’t remember such a number of chiefs retiring at the same time though I don’t know if you can read too much into it – there is a whole new life outside where you can relax a bit more.

“The pressures have always been great but I think they have become more personal, the focus is now very much on the chief especially in the media.

“On the recruitment side, police and crime commissioners often know the deputy and people aren’t going to risk running if they don’t think they have a chance.

“In the past people had to move around to different forces before becoming a chief constable and I think a fresh face at the top is helpful.”

Chief constable retirements announced in April and May (so far):

CC Mark Polin - North Wales – head of CPOSA. Length of service: 35 years.

CC Simon Edens – Northants – head of the NPCC performance management committee. 37 years.

CC Dave Jones – North Yorks – NPCC lead for citizens in policing. 32 years.

CC Stephen Kavanagh – Essex – NPCC lead for digital policing. 33 years.

CC Alec Wood – Cambs – NPCC lead for aviation. 32 years.

Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan – Met Police. 31 years.


At least six forces will now be competing among the same small pool of candidates in the coming months for a new chief constable and, in the Met, a new assistant commissioner – which is the equivalent rank to a chief.

One policing insider said: “What has the College and NPCC contribution to this actually been? There was a leadership review launched in 2015 to much fanfare which was meant to put in place changes including to deal with chief officer recruitment to bring about a wider pool of candidates, but – like changing the police rank structure - hardly any of it has been implemented.”

But Dafydd Llywelyn, from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “As part of their role in representing the public, police and crime commissioners are directly responsible for the appointment of chief constables. PCCs are working with the College of Policing to ensure that the talent pool of applicants for these key roles is as broad and deep as possible.

“We will continue to work with the College and other key stakeholders to ensure that any obstacles and barriers to chief officer recruitment that the College have identified are fully addressed.”

The College has revised its application process for would-be candidates to the senior command course and held workshops to encourage under-represented groups to put themselves forward for the roles.

Jo Noakes, SCC director for the College of Policing, said: “An increase in the number of applications for last year’s Strategic Command Course (SCC) assessment processes resulted in our most diverse course yet.

“The delegates that graduated in March 2018 included more superintendents and police staff.

“There were also increases in underrepresented groups and students from other law enforcement agencies and public sector partners.

 “To maintain this momentum we are continuing to deliver briefing events, career development workshops and development centres to clearly explain the process for the SCC and encourage even more applications.”

She added: “Following consultation with the service at the end of 2017 we are now looking at how we can further support progression to chief officer ranks, provide support for appointments and professionally develop newly appointed chief officers.”

The NPCC did not respond to a request for comment on the issue before this article went live.

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