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Mandatory beat requirement to end

A 184-year-old tradition of police officers working a stint as a bobby on the beat is to come to an end as the Government presses ahead with a radical overhaul of recruitment.

After consulting on its proposals, the Home Office is to introduce a three year fast track to inspector scheme and direct entry at superintendent level, while the rank of chief constable will be opened up to overseas applicants.

The decision to press ahead with the reforms, masterminded by rail regulator turned policing watchdog Tom Winsor, will anger police officers who believe first-hand experience as a constable is essential.

The only way to enter the force since Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police in 1829 has been to join as a constable.

Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: " We agree that the police service should be seeking to attract the 'brightest and best', however the current high potential development scheme should already identify those individuals and allow them to flourish.

"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."

In what normally takes a decade to achieve, from 2014 military personnel, security staff and industry professionals will be able to enter the police force as superintendents.

The number of direct entry places to senior ranks are to be capped each year, the Government said in a written statement to Parliament.

Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said: "A proportion of respondents were opposed to the direct entry schemes in principle. These respondents valued policing experience as the principal foundation for all police leaders."

He went on: "The Government remains committed to implementing fast track and direct entry schemes as they offer an opportunity to attract the best talent to the police, bringing in new skills and ideas from other professions."

Around 20 new superintendents and 80 new inspectors will be appointed each year and rules of entry are to be overseen by the professional standards body, the College of Policing.

Chief S uperintendent Irene Curtis, President of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said: "Since it was first proposed, the Police Superintendents' Association has expressed concerns about the principle of direct entry into the police service at the rank of s uperintendent on the basis that the service already has exceptional leaders, although we accept there should be an improved fast-track system to promote more quickly those with the greatest potential.

"We also believe that the operational nature of the role of a superintendent means that direct entry into this rank creates unnecessary risks."

Police and crime commissioners will be able to pick a chief constable not only from UK senior ranks but from applicants with equivalent roles in countries with ''a common law jurisdiction'' - such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Current legislation prevented US ''supercop'' Bill Bratton, former head of the New York police, applying to take charge of the Metropolitan Police in 2011.

Mr Bratton gained a reputation for introducing bold measures to reduce crime, heading police departments in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

National policing lead for workforce management, Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, said: " The advantages of first hand day to day experience of operational policing to those in command roles is not underestimated.

"It is also a reality that opportunities for entry to senior roles will be fewer as police forces contract to suit budgets."

He also said: " 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."

Among other policing reforms being ushered through by the Home Office are previously-announced plans to cut annual pay for new police constables by £4,000 to £19,000.

Meanwhile, plans to bring in compulsory redundancies across all ranks will be held back for further negotiation among police staff associations and their employers.

College of Policing chief executive Alex Marshall said: " British policing already has a vast array of talent, but that shouldn't prevent us from opening up further opportunities to those from other professions.

"The work we have been asked to develop will cover new approaches in talent management of those from constable to inspector, direct entry at superintendent and opening up chief constable positions to equivalent candidates from forces outside the UK.

"The first steps in developing the commission will involve work with forces to ensure that any new proposals are built around their future workforce needs as well as ensuring they align with our own proposals for the continuous professional development of those in policing."

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: " We already have direct entry into the police at constable level. Although new ideas in policing should be welcomed, those individuals who come in would need a huge amount of training and support.

"With the creation of the new College of Policing we are already seeking to create a police force with the highest levels of professionalism and an emphasis on integrity and ethics.

"How could, for example, a manager from Tesco, who decided to join the police as a superintendent have the capabilities and expertise to do the job? No other professions would allow such a scheme. It is important that ministers work with the representatives of the service to implement these proposals."

Jon Collins, deputy director of the Police Foundation, an independent policing think tank, said: " At a time when the police are facing new challenges, generating fresh thinking and attracting high calibre recruits is clearly essential.

"Fast-tracking high flyers to inspector level is a credible way to achieve this and the new College of Policing is well placed to develop this scheme.

"However, the direct recruitment of superintendents poses a significant risk. An accumulated knowledge of the police service and of policing cannot easily be replicated through training, while their lack of operational experience might see direct entrant superintendents marginalised from key roles.

"The credibility of senior officers recruited through direct entry is another real concern.

"We need a professional police service which is able to respond to modern challenges and the current recruitment system is by no means perfect. But direct entry for superintendents has real risks and a hasty introduction could create more problems than it solves."

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