Chief Constable's update
Welcome to the Chief Constable's Update.
You can find out here a bit about what I have been doing recently, and contact me by email if you would like to make a brief comment or suggestion to improve our police force. Use the links on the left to find out more about Thames Valley Police or to find out about local policing in your area.
On Wednesday the Home Office publicised the consultation on direct entry to the police service (opens new window) and I have encouraged my staff to respond. The questionnaire requests police officers to declare their rank – although one of my senior police staff colleagues noticed that there is no tick box for him to show his position. It was as if Home Office colleagues are unaware that 40% of my staff are not sworn officers!
In welcoming the proposals the newspapers have inevitably criticised the service. None of us like to think that the work to which we commit so much time and effort is not valued. Prejudicial comments, uninformed by the facts are the stock in trade of politicians of all parties and journalists but ultimately it is not their views that matter. It is the view of the public whom we protect and serve which really counts. I receive many letters and e-mails thanking officers and staff for their work day in day out and the annual British Crime Survey shows year-on-year increases in levels of public confidence in Thames Valley Police. A few days ago I was talking with a group of operational officers. They felt very undervalued and unsupported but not one of them will vote in favour of the right to strike. In their words, it would only hurt the very people that need their protection.
As for the suggestions that are in the consultation paper I see that the Home Office want everything up and running by August or September this year which is incredibly ambitious and does not suggest much time to reflect on consultation. I am not too concerned about direct entry to Inspector – it is wrongly called direct entry as it is accelerated promotion to Inspector in three years. The scheme is proposed for 80 people a year, 40 internal candidates and 40 external candidates. Some of my colleagues might think three years a bit quick but I joined on the old Graduate Entry Scheme and was an Inspector in five years and later jumped over the rank of Chief Superintendent. So it is not a massive change to the scheme which the Home Office abolished 10 years ago.
Of course I do not like the idea that we need to go to the USA or Canada to recruit chiefs but I am not sure we have much to fear from this. Ten years ago the Home Office recruited a US police chief to work with them to shake up the police service. He was a nice man but all I can recall is he went around saying how good the British police were! Two weeks ago I was invited to Canada (completely at the expense of the Canadian government) to speak to their police chiefs about what we had been doing in the UK to transform policing and save money - they believed that they could learn so much from us. As one thank you letter said, ‘I will freely allow that the UK presenters represented a high watermark for the two day session. Clearly, we have much to learn from the British experience.”
I therefore might be wrong but I don’t think that we should fear much from opening up chiefs jobs to those who are police professionals from abroad.
Lastly, the direct entry to Superintendent is a bad idea and I have said so openly over the last few years. I believe that commanding police units requires professional expertise which cannot be learned in 15 months and that the risk of putting in a novice to run a Local Police Area or complex investigations is just too great. Over the years those posts which do not require police professional expertise have been civilianised – we used to have a Chief Superintendent in Human Resources, ICT and Learning and Development. We did not need police professional expertise in those roles and we opened them up to a broader range of applicants. Therefore any Superintendent role that remains does so because my professional judgement is that it requires police professional expertise. I think that the plan is for chiefs to decide whether they recruit direct entry Superintendents. If it is my choice then we will not in Thames Valley Police.
Sara Thornton, Chief Constable