UK

MPs warn of lack of candidates for top police jobs

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More than half of the police and crime commissioners in England and Wales have appointed a chief constable from within their own force, the BBC has learned.

The findings come as MPs warned of a "deeply concerning" lack of competition for top policing jobs - with the pool of talent "in danger of drying up".

In 11 cases since 2012, there was only one applicant for the role - most often the incumbent deputy chief constable.

Recruiting externally and upping pay would attract more people, MPs suggest.

Advertising jobs externally would also help allay accusations of "parochialism and cronyism", the Home Affairs Committee said.

'Close relationship'

New chief constables have been appointed in almost all police forces since 2012 - with an average of three applicants for every post, the BBC's research found.

Even high-profile forces attracted few applicants - for example West Midlands, which had one candidate, and Greater Manchester, which had two.

More than half of all 41 police and crime commissioners (PCCs) - who were first elected in 2012, and have responsibility for appointing the chief constable - hired someone from within their own force.

In 23 cases, the job went to the existing deputy, who the committee said "often share a close relationship" with the relevant commissioner.

Chief constables currently earn between £134,000 and £187,000, but MPs called for new rules to allow them to be paid more in order to attract a greater variety of candidates.


What the BBC found

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  • 31 forces appointed a new chief constable since 2012
  • Six forces extended their existing chief constable's contract
  • Four forces' chief constables remained in post and their contracts have not come up for renewal in this period
  • 23 appointments overall were internal, from 22 forces
  • On average there were three applicants for each post - the highest number of applicants for a post was nine and the most common number of applicants was one
  • 11 internal posts and 1 external post had one applicant

The committee's chair, Labour MP Keith Vaz, said it had not anticipated that the creation of PCCs would have had "such a dramatic effect" on the appointment of chief constables.

"The pool of talent in policing is in danger of drying up, with so few applications for the most senior jobs in policing," he said.

Commissioners should make sure applicants for chief constable had served at least two years in another police force at a senior rank, "and not allow close working relationships with their deputy chief constables to deter external applicants", he added.

PCCs - whose remit also includes setting force budgets - represent 41 out of the 43 forces in England and Wales. The next group of commissioners will be elected at polls in May.

Turnout at those elections would be one measure of their success in engaging with the communities they represent, the committee said.

'Better scrutiny'

It also recommended a number of measures to improve the transparency around the role, including a list of office costs and a register of interests to be maintained centrally "so they can be better scrutinised by their electorate".

The Policing and Crime Bill will see more responsibility given to PCCs in relation to fire and rescue services.

Last month Home Secretary Theresa May suggested they could play a role in the wider criminal justice system.

However, any further expansion of the role should be "incremental and carefully judged", the committee concluded - with Mr Vaz warning a broader remit "may prove overwhelming".

Police forces which appointed internal police chief constables
FORCE NUMBER OF APPLICANTS NEW CHIEF CONSTABLE
Cambridgeshire 1 Deputy CC Alec Wood
Cumbria 2 Deputy CC Jeremy Graham
Devon and Cornwall 6 Deputy CC Shaun Sawyer
Durham 1 Deputy CC Mike Barton
Northumbria 3 Deputy CC Steve Ashman
Thames Valley 1 Deputy CC Francis Habgood
Norfolk 1 Deputy CC Simon Bailey
Sussex 3 Deputy CC Giles York
West Midlands 1 Deputy CC David Thompson
Wiltshire 4 in 2012 / 1 in 2015 2012 Patrick Geenty / 2015 Mike Veale
Suffolk* 1 Deputy CC Gareth Wilson
Bedfordshire* 4 Deputy CC Jon Boutcher
Greater Manchester 2 Deputy CC Ian Hopkins
Gwent 1 Deputy CC Jeff Farrar
Kent 3 Deputy CC Alan Pughsley
Lincolnshire 1 Deputy CC Neil Rhodes
Staffordshire 1 Deputy CC Jane Sawyers
Surrey n/a Deputy CC Nick Ephgrave (interim appointment)
Dorset 4 Deputy CC Debbie Simpson
Cleveland 1 Deputy CC Jacqui Cheer
Hampshire & Isle of Wight* 6 Deputy CC Andy Marsh
Merseyside 2 Deputy CC Andy Cooke from June
*the force also made an external appointment after 2012

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