West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner "fiercely opposed" to plans for direct entry to senior police ranks.
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Press release 14 October

West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner criticises plans for direct entry to senior police ranks

Statement from Bob Jones:

The plan to introduce direct entry to the police at inspector and superintendent level is ill-conceived and will not facilitate improvements to the service. 

The proposals are intended to drive efficiency but in practice are likely to have the opposite effect given the requirement for a very lengthy mentoring and training period before the new officers become operationally embedded. For inspectors, the recommendations suggest that direct entrants would require a year as constable followed by two years of training. For superintendents, the training period is 18 months.  Such an approach could be hugely expensive, and as a PCC I couldn't afford to wait three years after the recruitment of a senior officer before they were able to take on responsibilities.

Police officers need experience and credibility and there are no shortcuts to this.  In order to take command an officer must have the appropriate skills, training and credibility with those under their command – this is unlikely to be the case for an individual appointed to a senior role from outside the organisation.  We wouldn’t expect someone to retrain as a surgeon in 18 months, and patients would rightly be uncertain too.  Similarly, we wouldn’t expect someone to enter the army as a colonel and take command of a battle group with just 18 months’ training, and the soldiers under that person’s command would be concerned also.  A direct entry officer is unlikely to have the experience and credibility necessary to order their officers into dangerous and life-threatening situations.

There are some specific areas of policing business where direct entry might be appropriate.  For example forensic accounting experience could be very valuable in an Economic Crime Unit and I could see the potential of someone with these skills being recruited from outside the Force, and being given some policing powers appropriate to this role.  However, this is very much at the margins.  I do not see direct entry as viable for officers in general command positions.

Recruitment of chief constables from overseas has significant potential pitfalls.  In particular, we have to be absolutely sure that their experience is comparable because policing, law and culture may be so different as to make the proposition unworkable.   The proposal speaks about the training and development needs of such an appointed individual.  It is important to also focus upon their initial recruitment, and I should like to emphasise the recommendation that such individuals may only be considered if their experience is considered appropriate by the police and crime commissioner appointing the chief officer.

Diversity is a key issue and in my view one of the most compelling arguments for direct entry is that it could increase representation from diverse communities. However, as the plans stand it is not clear that they will do anything to improve representation and in fact they could build in some barriers to diversity – such as the potential requirements for a ‘good’ degree, or to speculatively invest £800 in the Policing Knowledge qualification prior to submitting an application to the service.   

I do think that fast tracking can be an effective means of getting high calibre individuals into leadership roles more quickly without compromising on experience.  There are many extremely talented people in the police at all levels and there are examples of people who were sergeants who are now chief officers and have achieved this in a relatively short period of time.  The West Midlands Chief Constable was fast tracked during the earlier part of his service, for example. 
Local flexibility is crucial but the recommendations are mixed in this respect.  With regard to inspectors, the plan may be that each Force should be required to take a certain number of candidates each year, whilst the recommendation for the superintendent scheme is for local discretion as to whether or not to take part.  I would prefer the latter approach – it should be a matter for each chief constable to determine in consultation with his or her police and crime commissioner, in order to achieve the best result for their force.  There are plenty of talented officers already in West Midlands Police looking for promotion at a time when overall officer numbers have been shrinking, and to introduce Inspectors from outside at this time would be difficult to justify.  The requirements of policing differ across the country and PCCs and chief constables need to be enabled to respond according to the need in their area.  There should be local choice on whether to implement the proposals and on how best to select and develop officers to meet local need.  I hope that the College of Policing's guidance reflects this need for local discretion.

It remains to be seen where the additional costs arising from these plans will fall.  I await the detail of the government’s response, but at a time when policing is facing severe cuts – which are exceptionally deep and unfair in the West Midlands – imposing an additional burden is unwarranted and unnecessary.  Equally, I do not see it as fair if these costs were to fall on the College of Policing.

Imposing direct entry inspectors against the wishes of police and crime commissioners is completely inappropriate as it could be viewed as introducing an ‘officer class’ and is massively regressive.  It fails to understand the difference between the police and the armed forces – the overwhelming majority of police officers are required to use their own discretion and are not under the command of an officer in the immediate vicinity.  I will fiercely oppose being forced to adopt a procedure which I think is immensely damaging to the traditions of British policing.

Notes for Editors
Bob Jones is available for interview
Contact 0121 626 6060
Copyright © 2013 West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, All rights reserved.

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