Former Army officers will be recruited as police superintendents
Changes rip up tradition of only British citizens serving in the police
By Simon Walters
Foreign crimebusters such as US supercop Bill Bratton will be given the chance to take over British police forces under radical new plans to be unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May.
And former Army officers will be recruited as police superintendents in an attempt to end the ‘closed shop’ police culture blamed for bungled investigations and corruption. The changes, set to be fiercely opposed by police chiefs, rip up the centuries-old tradition of only British citizens serving in the police.
They also abolish the rule that senior policemen have to work their way up from being a bobby on the beat.
Mrs May believes there are too few talented people at the top of the police. Crucially, she hopes the shake-up will lead to more women and people from ethnic minorities in high command. The reforms will have a major effect on policing at three levels:
- Graduates in their 20s will be offered a fast-track ‘direct entry’ to the police with promotion to inspector rank in just three years, without having to work as constables before they are promoted.
- Former Army officers, businessmen and others from the private sec-tor in their 30s and 40s with ‘exceptional achievements and abilities’ will be encouraged to apply for jobs as super-intendents.
- Newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be given permission to recruit chief constables from the US, Australia and other English-speaking nations with UK-style ‘common law policing by consent’.
Mr Bratton, former head of New York City Police and the Los Angeles Police Department, was drafted in by David Cameron to advise on tackling gang warfare in Britain in 2011.
The Prime Minister had suggested putting him in charge of the Metropolitan Police but was forced to drop the plan after protests by British police chiefs. In the end, the job advert said ‘only British citizens can apply’.
Mrs May’s initiative follows mounting controversy over policing in the UK highlighted by the cover-up in the Hillsborough stadium disaster, police conduct in the phone-hacking scandal and the ‘plebgate’ row between former Minister Andrew Mitchell and Downing Street officers.
Her controversial decision to cut constables’ starting pay by £4,000 can now be seen as part of a major overhaul of police recruitment and salaries.
Ministers privately complain that one of the major problems in fighting crime is the ‘lack of talent’ in senior policing posts.
A Downing Street source said: ‘It will bring a breath of fresh air to policing. We can’t slam the door in the face of talent just because they haven’t paced the high street as a PC. And without these changes, it will take decades to change the all-white and all-male image of the police.’
When Mr Cameron first suggested hiring Mr Bratton, he said: ‘Why shouldn’t someone with a different skill-set be able to join the police force in a senior role? Why shouldn’t someone who has been a proven success overseas be able to help turn around a force at home?’
But Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: ‘I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them.
The notion that you can ship someone in from another country to run a police force in a different environment and a different culture is quite simply stupid.’
Mr Bratton, 65, became renowned for his ‘no-nonsense’ approach to policing when he was in charge of America’s two largest police departments.
He halved New York’s murder rate and cut violent crime by 50 per cent in Los Angeles.