Selection and development of senior police officers “inconsistent and often ineffective”

Police forces don’t always identify the best candidates for senior leadership positions because of questionable selection procedures. In addition, current training doesn’t equip chief officers with the knowledge and skills they need to perform at their best. That’s the view of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) who’ve carried out a joint inspection to determine how effectively police forces select and train candidates for chief officer roles.

The resulting report, entitled ‘Leading Lights: An Inspection of the Police Service’s Arrangements for the Selection and Development of Chief Officers’, asserts that a lack of consistency, fairness and transparency is having a detrimental effect on police forces’ abilities to both identify and support those with the most potential to become chief officers.

The report highlights three major areas of concern:

*Police forces are not able to identify potential chief officers as quickly and effectively as they should be

*Training and development opportunities for chief officers are not sufficiently comprehensive or coherent

*The appointment of chief officers is managed in an often haphazard manner

The Inspectorates identified a variety of factors contributing to these problems, including the following:

*Different forces apply selection and assessment guidelines in different ways, in turn leading to large-scale regional variations and inconsistencies

*The Strategic Command Course (SCC) contains modules which may not be relevant to all forces

*Too often, there’s a shortage of applicants for chief officer roles and officers don’t move between forces readily enough

Day-to-day operations and strategy

Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, commented: “Chief officers are responsible for setting the overall strategy of a force, as well as directing day-to-day operations and organisation. It’s crucial that we have the very best people in those roles. Unfortunately, we’ve found that the current processes used to select and develop senior police leaders are sometimes inadequate. Additionally, they’re generally applied in a very inconsistent manner, leading to variations in ability and experience between different forces.”

Parr continued: “The weaknesses in the system mean the playing field isn’t level and is unfair, which means it’s impossible to be sure we always have the right people leading police forces. Ultimately, it potentially means less capable applicants being selected over better ones and those applicants then receiving sub-standard training. We also identified a lack of diversity among chief officers. We know that women and BAME individuals are underrepresented at chief officer level, but we also determined that there’s a lack of diversity of experience. For example, many chief officers have only ever served with one force. This means they may not be equipped to deal with challenges not traditionally seen in the regions (for example, dealing with rural crimes in an urban locale).”

In conclusion, Parr observed: “It’s clear that the selection and training of chief officers needs to be examined in further detail. Our report concludes with a list of recommendations designed to strengthen and standardise the approach to selecting and training chief officers.”

Improving selection and development

Several recommendations have been put forward to help improve the selection and development of chief officers:

*The College of Policing (CoP) should commission independent reviews of the Senior Police National Assessment Centre (SPNAC) and the SCC

*The professional reference group, which advises the CoP on the SPNAC and the SCC, should be expanded to include figures outside policing

*The CoP should draft new regulations – and provide comprehensive information – on the conduct and procedure for selecting which candidates will attend the SPNAC

*With the support of other relevant organisations, the CoP should devise a new framework for Continuing Professional Development (supported by a new national workforce planning function)

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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