Wiltshire chief constable defends rank removal plans

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Pat Geenty has defended his force’s plans to remove the rank of chief inspector after the move was criticised by its Police Federation.

Jan 8, 2014
By Chris Allen
Graeme Biggar

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Pat Geenty has defended his force’s plans to remove the rank of chief inspector after the move was criticised by its Police Federation.

The force is currently reviewing its organisational hierarchy to assess how it can best support staff in delivering a high-quality service to the public while reducing bureaucracy.

The first element of this review is the decision to decommission the chief inspector rank and remove it from the organisational structure. As a result, those currently in the post will not be replaced upon retirement or promotion.

Other senior ranks, including among police staff, will also be considered as part of the review.

This is not the first time the rank of chief inspector has been removed. After Sir Patrick Sheehey’s report on policing reforms in 1993 the rank of chief inspector was phased out in several areas, all of which reinstated the position at a later date.

The proposal also follows Northamptonshire Police’s decision not to replace its outgoing chief superintendents in a bid to cut costs.

Mr Geenty said: “It’s important that we are able to react quickly and effectively when the public need us – part of that relates to the technology we use but a bigger part is around the human side of things. I want to create an empowered workforce where our staff feel capable and confident in making decisions that ultimately have the best interests of the public in mind. That means flattening our structure, reducing bureaucracy and closing the gap between what is happening on the frontline and what is being said at a leadership level.”

He added: “Clearly, the removal of any rank structures, whether they are police officer or police staff, requires careful and considered management. This is not something that we can achieve overnight nor would we want to. It will start with the removal of the chief inspector rank but we will be reviewing other senior police officer and staff ranks and roles too.

“The primary goals of this review are to create a flatter organisation, where frontline officers and staff are more empowered to make decisions in the best interests of the public, and to help the force protect frontline policing numbers.”

The chair of Wiltshire Police Federation, Mike White, said: “The chief inspector rank is already overworked and already do in excess of the hours they should. Our concerns are that the majority of work done by the chief inspectors at the moment will be passed downwards.

“It will create some opportunities as our understanding is that a couple more superintendent posts will be created.

“They are reviewing other ranks as well and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a removal of other ranks. I don’t doubt this is being done with the best intentions; it has been identified that communication is an issue within the organisation through recent staff surveys and we have been told that this is part of the rationale for the removal of the rank.

“However, we felt we weren’t consulted with enough and that is was presented to us as a done deal. We feel it has been tried elsewhere in the country and everyone who has tried it has gone back to reintroduce the chief inspector rank.”

Police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire, Angus Macpherson, said: “I welcome this review. As budgets are cut more and more, the chief constable has to look at new ways of working. This is about producing a flatter management structure and protecting frontline policing numbers within Wiltshire Police.

“A main part of my role is holding the chief constable to account for delivering an effective and efficient policing service in the area, so I will be keeping a watching brief on this matter, being kept updated by the chief constable as the review progresses.”

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