Step into my office baby…

Tom Winsor has become the first person to be appointed as Chief Inspector of Constabulary not to have served previously as a senior police officer – why the controversy though?

Yesterday it was announced that there’s a fresh face due to oversee the office of the Police Constable.

His name is Tom Winsor, he’s been appointed as the new Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales and contrary to this blog’s title, I probably couldn’t get away with calling him ‘babe’.

The news has been greeted with a mixed reaction by police with some thinking that he’s not an appropriate person for the role.

What does Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) actually do though and why might Mr Winsor be seen as a controversial choice?

It is the role of HMIC to independently oversee on behalf of the Home Office the work of English and Welsh police forces. The HMIC is perhaps a little like what Ofsted is to schools – it measures and assesses how forces are performing and then produces reports aimed at improving said performance.

Up until now the head of HMIC has always been a high ranking police officer.

Since 2009 it has been Sir Denis O’Connor, a former Chief Constable of Surrey Police who has also held senior positions in Kent Police and the Met.

Mr Winsor’s appointment breaks with this tradition – his background is in the legal profession, he is a lawyer and spent several years working as the Rail Regulator.

This is perhaps not the primary source of the controversy though – Mr Winsor is also the author of the Winsor Report which was a large scale review into the working rights and pay of police officers.

Some in the police force, particularly those representing the Police Federation, felt that the recommendations of Mr Winsor’s report were unfair and so objected to them publicly with several thousand officers traveling to London to register their concerns at a demonstration march.

Mr Winsor’s appointment has been described as ‘very difficult’ news by Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation, who also said he could understand officers’ ‘anger and frustration’ at the move.

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee before his appointment though, Mr Winsor had sought to reassure that it was “not essential” that the Chief Inspector’s role be filled by a police officer and that he’d work hard in the best interests of the public.

It’s fair to say that Mr Winsor’s appointment is a bold move and one that was always likely to raise a few eyebrows inside the police service.

At the same time this is a period of significant change for policing and fresh ideas may be beneficial to adapting to lower budgets and reduced staffing numbers.

Mr Winsor’s report advocated direct entry to encourage new experience into policing and his own appointment appears to continue along the same line.

Consider the time Adam Crozier spent as The Football Association’s Chief Executive – Crozier too had little direct experience of football having come from a business background but despite this apparent disadvantage, was able to implement a series of changes that boosted The FA’s profitability and governance.

It’s too early to say whether Mr Winsor’s appointment as Chief Inspector of Constabulary will be a success, what does seem clear though is that the move is a sign that the times are changing and the police service needs to move with them.

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