Do you need a copper to inspect the cops?


Until now, the person charged with inspecting the police in England and Wales has always been an ex-copper.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is supposed to be independent of government and the police - its boss technically an appointment of the Crown. But the reality has always been that the home secretary chooses the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and that individual is drawn from the senior ranks of the police service.

Until now.

Today the Home Office announced that its preferred choice for the job is Tom Winsor, the "civilian" lawyer whose recent proposals for reforming police pay and conditions have gone down as well with ordinary coppers as a vomiting drunk in the custody suite.

Tom Winsor Tom Winsor has carried out a review of police pay and conditions

The committee representing police inspectors in England and Wales has said the decision "simply beggars belief". Matt Cavanagh from the left-leaning think-tank IPPR, said it was a "risky if not reckless choice", a "provocative" appointment which could damage the reputation of the inspectorate.

The central argument seems to be that only someone with years of experience of policing can do the job. Paul McKeever from the Police Federation has said: "If ever there was a need for sagacious advice from someone with a profound understanding of policing, it is now."

The subtext here is that officers would dearly like the head of the HMIC to be someone who would defend the police service against the impact of some of the government's reform proposals. What they appear to have got as the new chief inspector is the very man who came up with the reforms in the first place.

The fact that Theresa May has named such a controversial outsider sends a powerful message to the service that the government is committed to significant reform and, after being heckled and booed at the Police Federation conference last month, is content to take on the rank and file.

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The fact that Theresa May has named such a controversial outsider sends a powerful message to the service that the government is committed to significant reform”

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But is there some truth in the charge that only an insider can have the "deep and profound understanding of policing" required for the job? Or might Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone be right in suggesting: "The fact that he is not from a police background is innovative and it may be brilliant."?

Arguments for and against external appointments to public positions were presented to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee a couple of years ago. The subsequent report, "Outsiders and Insiders", concluded that the senior civil service "should take appropriate measures to reduce its reliance on external recruitment, not least because outside appointees do not appear to perform better than career civil servants - despite being paid more".

They heard from the then Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell who argued that bringing in new skills and thinking was enormously valuable. "Getting people from a wide range of backgrounds, the private sector and wider public sector… is really good for us," he argued. "We should not sit back and say that we should have only talent that we grow internally."

However, the committee also heard from the Ofsted chair Zenna Atkins, who said outside recruits found it very difficult not to do one of two things: "One is to go native and just go along with what the public sector has done and to buy into, 'that's the way it's done here'… or the other thing is you are continually banging your head against the wall and are not able to navigate your way through the way things are done."

The report produced a table which was said to provide "some slight support for the belief that external appointees on the whole perform less well than internal recruits".

Table from Outsiders and Insiders report

However, if the aim is to challenge the norms and procedures of an organisation, to stir things up a bit, then experience from business suggests an outside appointment can have transformative effects.

When Adam Crozier was appointed chief executive of the Football Association in 2000, there were plenty of raised eyebrows. He was the opposite of what was expected for the governing body of England's national game - young (35), Scottish and with no experience of business in football.

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Experience from business suggests an outside appointment can have transformative effects”

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In his short tenure, Crozier is credited with turning the FA into a much younger and more commercial organisation. He made enemies and his approach had its critics, but others argue that only someone completely outside the old Lancaster Gate cabal could have pushed through such needed change.

Last month, the debt-laden tour operator Thomas Cook appointed an industry outsider as its new chief executive. Harriet Green's background is in electronic components distribution. Again, the aim seems to be to shake things up. The board said she had been hired because of her "extensive experience of driving business transformation and change programmes".

The question of who should be the next director general of the BBC also sees a split between those who want an experienced internal "steady-as-she-goes" candidate and those demanding more radical change pushed through by someone from outside the corporation.

So the appointment of Tom Winsor as Chief Inspector of Constabulary, should it happen, signals something more profound than ministers putting two fingers up to belligerent bobbies. It is strong evidence that this government wants transformative cultural change in the police service. Expect fireworks.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Would you ask a bus driver to make strategic decisions about the Military? Winsor is simply one of the arrogant generation who imagine they know best about everything.The Home office has seriously damaged the Police over many years for their own convenience, with no understanding of the task. Local Policing must not mean control by politicians but they want this because it is 'convenient'

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The most important thing that any chief Inspector of Constabulary SHOULDN'T be is a Mason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    45.Muppet Master

    "Must be hell trying to scrape by on 35k pa"

    Yeah, after 10 years service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Ref #42

    Must be hell trying to scrape by on 35k pa plus overtime and allowances; But I'm pretty sure our guys and gals in Afgan wouldn't complain at that for the "slightly" more dangerous job they do (Squaddie = c.18k, no overtime)

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I suspect this is one Winsor who will not get as far as a Jubilee of any colour.
    NB Why do the beeb delight in having a HYS page where you can'y HYS on the majority of the stories on that page?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    "This is not about having independent overview of police this is about political control of the police by a political party..."
    Think you'll find that a senior cop recently admitted that the last crowd (Blair) had already politicised the police, so this won't make much difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.


    "Police are grossly over paid from day one..."

    Yup, so "grossly overpaid" some officers have resorted to selling their medals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Has Windsor got any connection with News International?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    James St George...many thanks for your uninformed comments "Police are grossly over paid from day one"? Get a grip... much do you pay for your pension...11%? I don't think so..
    Do you pay between 3-6 % for your pension or are you on a non-contributing or claiming benefits?
    What 'fiddles' do you grunt about??? Your spite indicates a criminal record or close to one

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Winsor's job is more as auditor rather than transformer of existing practice and this is where the analogies go too far. If May wants to turn the police force upside down why did she support elected commissioners and not create a national police force. I do not recall Winsor being an outstanding rail regulator and during his time the train service had a very bad reputation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Police are grossly over paid from day one, and pensioned, let alone any old 'fiddles' for extra.
    Time to be realistic, after all they could always quit. But they won't as they know they are sitting vastly too well off.

    One outside perspective is so scary to them, then we all know they have something to hide, their excess!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I hope this government keeps on doing what it's doing. When the effluent hits the fan and it will soon, with a disgruntled Police Force, it will be interesting to see what happens. Keep on going Cameron, Osbourne, May et al. you're doing a great job of removing yourself from office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Yes you do,the police are very.The police is like the old boys club now,instead of being humble to the tax payers who pay their wages they look down and talk down to the public,most are very very rude when they deal with people. They think they ahve the right to retire at earlier then everyone else yet get better n pay pension then a british soldier. Out of touch and need to be controlled

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    This is the same scenario as having Mr Adrian '' Beecroft-Venture Capitalist deciding on workers rights (or lack of).

    This is the way the Tories are 'pushing through change' by appointing their own vested interests

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I'd put a General or an Admiral in charge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    For all you who are delighted that there is going to be a 'none Police' person at the top, you should remember that a civilian has been at the 'top' for a long time. The job title is 'Home Secretary'!

    But, I suppose if your HMI keeps telling you that your 'daft' proposals won't work then you need a yes man.

    ConDem doesn't care he knows nothing of Policing.

    In the future...YOU WILL

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Do you need a copper to inspect the cops?
    No, you need someone with more honesty and integrety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Tories have just replace a police crony with one of their own instead. Reminds me of Labor who reformed the house of lords by filling it with their own people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Privatisation and Govt control (in the same way that the NHS "isn't" being privatised) and streamlining of the police following it's militarisation.
    After the massively disproportionate sentences following the riots this is just more preparation for the huge civil unrest which is coming our way due to the erosion, segregation and downgrading of society in the UK.
    This is the tip of the iceberg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Do you need to be an ex-policeman to investigate the large number of deaths in custody, phone hacking and the causes and methods to control riots/demonstrations ? The UK police force needs a strong, independent organisation, with far reaching powers. I feel that somebody out of the force may have more impartiality in this role, although their background might be less important than its reach.


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