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.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote

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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Q. Do you need a copper to inspect the cops?

    A. No.

    If the Police Federation are against the appointment of an outsider (mind you all public sector "unions" are against change) then it must be the right thing to do.

    [Cue some Muppet to point out that the Police Federation isn't a union]

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    can anyone explain to me why a Chief Constable needs a personal chauffeur? Or indeed, a uniform, the object of which is to be able to identify a policeman on the street? How many times have we heard "the Police refused to comment" on some contentious issue? What about the comical behaviour of Police Commissioners revealed at the Leveson enquiry?

    The last thing the Inspector should be is a ex cop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Nick Herbert was CEO of the Reform think-tank. G4S is listed as a donor to Reform.

    Tom Winsor is a senior partner at White & Case. White & Case advised G4S on their £200m 10-year deal with Lincolnshire Police.

    Nick Herbert is now the policing minister and Tom Winsor will be HMIC.

    I wonder what job G4S has lined up for Theresa May when she has destroyed the Police Service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    "Sorry to say, probably not me that suffers as a result. We can only be in so many places at once/travel so fast. 8 Officers in 400 sq miles means if you dial 999 your nearest Police might be a 30-45 min response drive away, if we're not already committed"

    Question is, what will be your stance when the public help themselves but injure/kill a criminal in the process? Arrest them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The police are evidently disgruntled with this Govt. & appointment of TW & there seem to be hints of a "work to rule" mentality. Unfortunately, it won't be the Govt. that suffers from any this in their ministerial Jags but the ordinary public, many of whom already have a low opinion of the police. Result will be even further disenchantment & detachment from the public they are there to serve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    It is vitally important that someone independent, who has never worn a Police uniform reviews their work. Because of the incestuous nature of the force much has been overlooked in the past that would not be allowed to continue in business or even the civil service. The Police cannot exist in their own bubble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    To have some who is not/has not been a policeman in this position may help improve the reputation of the police in the eyes of the public.
    Far too many problems seem to have been swept under the carpet with a slap on the back and a nod and a wink.
    Think about the Catholic church and what happened when they tried to self police the rotten apples themselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Just exactly how many fingers and in what relative position is May displaying to the Police with this appointment? Not one to bear a grudge, not much!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    This question isn`t as straight foreward as the public would wish. In the Police force, there are bent and close to the mark employees, just as any other work place. Often, it is said, the Police are are law unto them selves. To say the least, it will be an interesting exercise. Picking the right person is the key.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    My dad used to work in a factory. In his day, the boss commanded the respect of every man there, because he'd started out on the shop floor like them, and worked his way up. He knew every job , because he'd done it himself. Dad used to say that the company died the day they brought kids with 'business' degrees, and no experience, straight into management. Within 10 years, the company was bankrupt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Self regulation never works, The Law society, The BMA, The press complaints commission, more interested in protecting their members than serving the public.

    An independent CIoC is a good idea but I don't think Winsor is the right man for the job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    There used to be a time when the police were regarded by people in this country with respect.

    Over the last 40 years that respect has gone. Too little presence on the street means they are not regarded as something apart from the rest of the community and the top brass only too willing to play games of politics like their paymasters.

    This move is just one more nail in the "service's" coffin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    It is good how friends of ministers are picking up government contracts and jobs
    when you look at it there seems to be a one way slide to reducing police officers, pcso on the beat and putting private security officers in there place to do custody and picking arrested people up off the street

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    94. SouthernCop
    Did you want to say something?

    Oh and please, don't come over all Fire alarm salesman when threatened with cuts like coppers always do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Sorry to say, probably not me that suffers as a result. We can only be in so many places at once/travel so fast. 8 Officers in 400 sq miles means if you dial 999 your nearest Police might be a 30-45 min response drive away, if we're not already committed.
    I don't object to reform but to the author of reform having a vested interest in it.
    93. Name Number 6
    Welcome to everyone else'es world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    91. SouthernCop
    Our emergency response team gone from 2 Sgts and 11 PCs to 1 and 7.
    Welcome to everyone else'es world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Removing corruption from within the Force has always been essential. Criminals are never clever & criminals must face this fact. Keeping the force squeeky clean has always been the objective.
    Let the system work its' magic & you'll finally find out that the system is indeed magic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Misses the point. I'm a PC - objections are based on the lies from the government. Our emergency response team gone from 2 Sgts and 11 PCs to 1 and 7. We cover 400 sq miles 24/7. Tom Winsor profits from the privatisation of the Police - see Insp. Gadget blog. Winsor profits from G4S contracts. He was not independent. I have no objection to a non-Police HMIC. I do object to Winsor being HMIC

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    This is an incredibly provocative move, when the government could do with someone standing with them. Obviously it won't be the police, or NHS, or the civil service.
    Looking forward to the next set of elections, and wondering how long it will take for the Cons to blame the Dems for everything that went wrong.
    An independent inspector would have been good, Winsor obviously isnt. Cronyism again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I'll be buying shares in G4S and Securicor etc in the morning.
    Mrs May and Winsor know which how to make a profit at the publics expense.
    If you can't best them , join them.
    You have to admire their sheer front to call this process innovative, independant and unbiased.
    I think the penny will drop with the public when 999 becomes an 0891 number.
    happy days.


Page 2 of 7



  • The OfficeIn pictures

    Fifty landmark shows from 50 years of BBC Two

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa

  • Peter MatthiessenPeter and Paddy

    Remembering two of the greatest travel writers

  • Worcestershire flagFlying the flag

    Preserving the identities of England's counties

  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.