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Recruiting pool for chief constables must widen, says PCC

Forces are struggling to find enough candidates for Chief Constable posts and a rethink is needed on how to encourage senior officers to go for the top jobs.

Leicestershire PCC Rupert Matthews warned that with multiple forces looking for leaders after a spate of retirements, they were having to compete for a limited number of candidates.

He is currently reviewing applications for a successor to Simon Cole who retired after 12 years as Chief Constable.

But he is also competing with West Midlands and now North Wales after Carl Foulkes announced his retirement.

And both the Metropolitan Police and National Crime Agency have vacancies at the top - with both recruitment processes mired in controversy.

A further problem is that more than a third of Chiefs have less than three years service.

Mr Matthews told Police Oracle: “The problem isn’t just here. It’s how people become eligible for the job. There’s not enough in the pool of people.”

House prices and relocation issues are other factors for senior officers despite the role offering salaries comparable to the West Midlands job at £204,372.

The PCC said: “People will say ‘I don’t want to because the kids are settled in school’. Or they’re coming up for retirement. We need to expand the number of people who will become eligible and make it more open.”

A critical issue is who can apply to go on the strategic command course. And Mr Matthews added more encouragement of potential leaders is needed.

He said: “You can’t go on it [strategic command course] unless your Chief Constable recommends it. That encourages group think.”

Forces were criticised last year by HM Inspectorate for failing to recruit from outside of their area for top jobs and often going for candidates already with them. But PCCs have warned they now have little choice.

He isn’t the first PCC to raise concerns; Cleveland had to re-open its recruitment despite offering a bonus to the salary and Norfolk’s PCC told Police Oracle that the Constabulary had struggled to get enough candidates to apply.

And at a time when forces are struggling to connect with BAME communities, there are no BAME chief officers.

Mr Matthews said: “It’s not good – roughly 40% of the population here are BAME – and we’re pretty good at recruitment.”

His comments were backed by the National Black Police Association who said the current system isn’t working.

President Andy George told Police Oracle: “The lack of networks and being peer assessed means it is difficult for under-represented groups to break through this glass ceiling which has a detrimental impact on diverse decision making at Chief Officer level.”

He added: “I would agree there is a lack of candidates from ethnically diverse backgrounds for Chief Officer roles despite a talented number of individuals.

"Racism and systemic bias in the application process for those hoping to be Chief Officers has prevented representation at the highest ranks with only one ethnically diverse candidate successfully passing the Senior Police National Assessment Centre this year.”

Leicestershire’s PCC said the problems needed solving if forces were to adapt to the challenges policing will face over coming years.

Mr Matthews warned:  “It’s not good for bringing in fresh thinking or new ideas.”

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