Chief constable is the rank used by the chief police officer of every territorial police force in the United Kingdom except for the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police, as well as the chief officers of the three 'special' national police forces, the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. The title is also held by the chief officers of the principal Crown Dependency police forces, the Isle of Man Constabulary, States of Guernsey Police Service, and States of Jersey Police. The title is also held, ex officio, by the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers under the Police Reform Act 2002. It was also the title of the chief officer of the Royal Parks Constabulary until this agency was disbanded in 2004.
Throughout the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies there are currently 50 chief constables. These consist of the chief officers of 37 English territorial forces outside London, 4 Welsh territorial forces, the Police Service of Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, 3 special national forces, 3 Crown Dependency constabularies, and the President of ACPO, Sir Hugh Orde.
History of title
The title is a derived from the original local parish constables of the 18th century and earlier. Constable and constabulary were terms adopted in an attempt to provide a historical link with the older forces and to emphasise local control. Much of the debate about policing in the early 19th century, when modern police forces were introduced in the United Kingdom, concerned fears that the new forces might become paramilitary agents of central government control. To this day other British police ranks, such as inspector and superintendent, are determinedly non-paramilitary – only police sergeants hold a quasi-military rank and even then the term sergeant had long existed as a non-military officer of subordinate rank.
Characteristics of office
The population of areas for which chief constables are responsible varies from a few hundred thousand to two or three million and it is commonplace for chief constables for larger force areas to be drawn from the chief constables of smaller forces. A chief constable has no senior officer, but is responsible to the Police and Crime Commissioner. Prior to 2012, the chief constable was responsible to the Police Authority. The chief constable is now appointed by the Police and Crime Commissioner of the service, who may also dismiss the chief constable.
The chief constable's badge of rank, worn on the epaulettes, consists of crossed tipstaves in a laurel wreath, surmounted by a crown. This is similar to the insignia of a lieutenant-general in the British Army.
The chief constable is assisted by a deputy chief constable (DCC) and one or more assistant chief constables (ACC). The chief constable, DCC and ACCs are collectively known as the "chief officers" of a force and belong to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
British police forces without chief constables
The two territorial police forces in London are not headed by chief constables. The chief officer of the Metropolitan Police and the chief officer of the City of London Police each instead hold the rank of Commissioner.
Private police forces
A number of corporations and institutions have a right under British law to raise private police forces; in most cases these organisations (which include railway companies, port and airport authorities, universities, cathedrals, and local government agencies responsible for certain markets, parks, tunnels, and open spaces) are permitted to employ uniformed officials who hold the office of constable whilst on (or near to) the property of the organisation concerned, but have no wider jurisdiction. Whilst these private police forces tend to use standard police ranks and uniforms, they are usually very small in size. The chief officer usually therefore holds a lower rank.
Service police forces
Police forces are maintained by the four branches of the British armed forces, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Royal Marines. However, these forces use the respective military ranks of the service to which they are attached, and therefore have no chief constable.
British Overseas Territories
Each of the British Overseas Territories (other than the British Antarctic Territory) has its own police force. In the majority of these the chief officer wears the rank markings of a chief constable, but holds the title of Commissioner. In the very small island forces, the chief officer holds a lower rank (for example, the Falkland Islands, where the chief officer is a chief superintendent). The Pitcairn Islands Police is the smallest British police force, usually staffed by one officer (but sometimes two) on secondment from another force. The only British Overseas Territory police force to be headed by a chief constable is the Sovereign Base Areas Police.
County police forces in England and Wales
The County Police Act 1839 gave the counties of England and Wales the opportunity to establish full-time police forces, headed by a chief constable who was appointed by the justices of the peace of the county. The first county to implement this was Wiltshire Constabulary, which appointed Captain Samuel Meredith RN its first chief constable on 28 November 1839. Other counties followed this pattern; for instance, Essex appointed its first chief constable on 11 February 1840.
The salaries of chief constables vary from force to force, primarily on the basis of the population of their force's territory, but the amounts are fixed centrally. From 1 September 2010, the highest paid is the chief constable of Northern Ireland, on £193,548, in recognition of the unique security challenges and political sensitivity of that office. Other salaries range from £181,455 in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, down to £127,017. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and his deputy are paid significantly more than any chief constable, partly because the Metropolitan Police has national anti-terrorism and security duties that overlap with other local forces. As of 2011 the commissioner earns an annual salary of £260,088, whilst his deputy earns £214,722.
Current chief constables (United Kingdom and Crown dependencies)
The table below lists the chief constables of British and Crown dependency police forces as of February 2013.
In London, the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police are led by commissioners rather than chief constables. Chief constable was, however, a lower rank in the Metropolitan Police which existed between 1886 and 1946.
In 1869, the divisions of the Metropolitan Police were grouped into four districts, and four new officers called district superintendents were appointed to command them, ranking between the divisional superintendents and the two assistant commissioners. These officers were to be generally military officers, civil servants or lawyers who were directly appointed to the rank. This caused a certain amount of concern, since some saw it as the creation of an "officer class" for the police, which had always been resisted.
In 1886, the rank of District Superintendent was renamed chief constable, as it was decided that it could be confused with the divisional superintendents. Unlike their superiors, chief constables were actually sworn into the office of constable, hence the name. A fifth chief constable was later created in the Criminal Investigation Department. The rank became junior to the new rank of deputy assistant commissioner in 1919.
In 1933, the districts were taken over by deputy assistant commissioners, with the chief constables remaining as their deputies. In 1946, the rank was renamed deputy commander.
The rank badge of a Metropolitan Police chief constable consisted of crossed tipstaves in a wreath.
Previous alternative titles (now defunct)
Liverpool City Police
The chief officer of Liverpool City Police was traditionally known as the head constable instead of the chief constable. This title was used until the early 1920s, when chief constable was adopted (also being used by the chief officers of some other small town and borough forces).
Police Service of Northern Ireland
The title was adopted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1969 to replace inspector-general. In 2001, the RUC was renamed and restructured as the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The new force kept the rank of chief constable.
- "President of ACPO". Police Reform Act 2002.
- Police Ranks and Epaulette, Avon and Somerset Constabulary website
- Wiltshire Constabulary History, Wiltshire Police website
- The Making of a Chief Constable, Essex Police website
- "First woman chief constable is appointed". The Independent. 15 June 1995.
- Nottinghamshire Police website