Contentious government plans polarise thinking from leading policing organisations.
Policing groups have clashed over their views on controversial government plans to introduce a series of direct entry schemes into the service.
Advocates of the schemes have said that they will give gifted candidates the chance to consider policing as a career, however concerns remain about the lack of operational experience from individuals who have not progressed through the service.
Ministers have now announced that – from 2014 – there will be initiatives in place for direct entry at inspector, superintendent and chief constable level.
Aspiring inspectors will first serve as constables before becoming sergeants as they enter a period of study. If they are successful, they will then achieve promotion again, with the full process taking three years to complete.
It is envisaged that superintendents would already be high-flyers and will undergo a period of intensive training. Meanwhile, the government has also announced a change in the law to allow senior officers from other countries, which have a similar policing model to the UK, to take up chief constable positions.
Steve White (pictured), Vice-Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, agreed that gifted people should be targeted for rapid progression – but maintained that the already established High Potential Development Scheme “should identify these individuals and allow them to flourish”.
He said: “To command a policing operation effectively, a senior officer needs first-hand experience of responding in an operational capacity to incidents they would not encounter in any other walk of life.
“External candidates should not be able to join the service at any rank above that of constable – the current structure properly equips officers for the next stage in their career.”
Turning to the proposals to allow senior officers from overseas to serve as chief constables, Mr White added that the quality of leadership in the UK was already proven.
Mr White said: “The government often echoes our view that we have the best Police Service in the world – so we’re unsure why they would want forces to recruit chief officers from overseas.
“We have no objection to overseas officers joining but that should initially be at the same rank as everyone else.”
However Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, national policing lead for workforce management, maintained that there was “nothing to fear” from direct entry.
CC Cunningham also believed the initiatives could help achieve greater diversity.
He added: “Every person in society shares an interest in seeing the best possible leaders in policing. So it is right to review how we attract the brightest and best, including how we can bring more women and minority ethnic leaders into senior roles.
“As a profession, policing has nothing to fear from being open to these ideas. Police leaders at every level can be proud that crime is down, while the Home Secretary has hailed policing as the ‘model public service’ for the way in which it has responded to the cuts. There is every reason for confidence that the abundant leadership talent within policing can compete with the very best from outside.”