New head of police ‘beggars belief’

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The Government’s choice for the next Chief Inspector of Constabulary has provoked an angry reaction from rank-and-file officers.

Lawyer Tom Winsor, whose review of police pay and conditions sparked a mass protest, was named as Home Secretary Theresa May’s preferred candidate for the £200,000-a-year role.

Criticism of the choice has focused on Mr Winsor’s lack of policing experience, with a think-tank describing it as “risky if not reckless”.

Mr Winsor’s two reports were part of the most wide-ranging review of policing in more than 30 years, The 54 year old, a former rail regulator, would be the first civilian to take up the role since the inspectorate was first established in 1856.

But first he is likely to face tough questions from members of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee next week before his appointment can be sent to Prime Minister David Cameron and the Queen for approval.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was “looking forward” to hearing from Mr Winsor, with whom he has clashed during previous hearings.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said she was “stunned” by the decision, saying she could not even believe reports that Mr Winsor had applied.

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said that “if ever there was a need for sagacious advice from someone with a profound understanding of policing it is now”.

Paul McKeever, the federation’s chairman, said: “We warned the Home Secretary there would be riots, crime would rise and that 20 per cent cuts would have a detrimental effect on the policing front line, putting public safety at risk, and we were called scaremongers.

“We look forward to hearing from the Home Secretary how the appointment of Tom Winsor provides the profound understanding of policing that is so important for public safety.”

The Police Federation’s inspecting ranks central committee said the decision “simply beggars belief”.

John Apter, chairman of the federation’s Hampshire branch, added: “Tom Winsor has very little experience of policing and has attracted criticism from the rank and file over the way he has conducted his reviews into police reform. The Home Secretary will have her own reasons for choosing Mr Winsor over other credible candidates, at this time I am struggling to understand what they might be.”

Matt Cavanagh, of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank, saying he was a “risky if not reckless choice” which could damage the reputation of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). “As well as putting the relationship between Government and the police under further strain, this provocative choice could put at risk the growing reputation and contribution of HMIC at a crucial time.”

Mrs May was heckled, booed and jeered at the federation’s annual conference in Bournemouth last month, just a week after some 30,000 officers marched through central London in protest over Mr Winsor’s proposed reforms, most of which have been accepted.

He called for the current police pay system, based on a 1920s model of rewarding years of service, to be overhauled and replaced with one that recognised hard work and merit instead.