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The rank of chief inspector is used in the New South Wales Police, South Australia Police, and Victoria Police. In all three forces, it is senior to the rank of inspector and junior to the rank of superintendent. The insignia consists of a crown, the same insignia as that of a Major in the army.
In the British police, a chief inspector is senior to an inspector and junior to a superintendent.
Today, the function of chief inspectors varies from force to force. They may assist Basic Command Unit (BCU) commanders, command smaller units, or fill various staff posts.
Detective chief inspector (DCI) is usually the minimum rank held by a senior investigating officer (SIO), who heads major investigations (into murder, for example), and a pool of these officers usually works out of force headquarters or major police stations. The senior Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer in each BCU usually also holds this rank.
The rank badge of a chief inspector is three bath stars ("pips") worn on the epaulettes. This is the same badge as a captain in the British Army. Until 1953, chief inspectors in the Metropolitan Police wore a crown instead.
Chief inspector was one of the ranks proposed for abolition in the 1994 Sheehy Report, but in the end it was retained.
The rank was first introduced into the Metropolitan Police in 1868 and was first used by Adolphus Williamson, the first head of the Detective Branch (later the Criminal Investigation Department). When Williamson was promoted to superintendent shortly afterwards, three of his inspectors were promoted to chief inspector and the rank was firmly established. In 1869 it was also introduced as a uniformed rank, with the senior assistant to the divisional superintendent being given the rank. The rank subsequently spread to other police forces.
From 1933, every Metropolitan Police division had two chief inspectors: chief inspector (administration) and chief inspector (crime) (the latter also being a uniformed administrative officer and not replacing the divisional detective inspector). From 1949, sub-divisional inspectors and DDIs were regraded as chief inspectors and current chief inspectors were regraded as superintendents. From 1953, chief inspectors commanding sub-divisions and detective chief inspectors commanding divisional CIDs were regraded as superintendents grade I, other chief inspectors were regraded as superintendents grade II, and a new rank of chief inspector was created. Since 1974, the Metropolitan Police has only had one rank of superintendent, in common with the rest of the country.
From January 1954 there was one superintendent grade I and one chief inspector in each sub-division, and one chief superintendent, one superintendent grade II and one detective superintendent grade I in each division. A detective chief inspector was added in each division later in 1954.
A chief inspector's starting salary is £51,789, or £53,853 if serving in London. After three years, it increases to £53,919, or £55,980 if serving in London. Officers who have been at this point for a year have access to the competence related threshold payment of £1,095 per year.
In the Sri Lanka Police Service, chief inspector of Police (CIP) is a gazetted officer rank senior to inspector and junior to assistant superintendent of police. In large cities, chief inspectors would be the officer in charge (OIC) at large police stations. The rank insignia for a police inspector is three stars, similar to an Army captain.
Famous fictional examples
- Chief Inspector Claud Eustace Teal, in the novels and adaptations of Leslie Charteris' Saint series
- Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford, in the eponymous series of novels by Ruth Rendell.
- Chief Inspector Derek Conway of the TV series The Bill
- Chief Inspector Eric Finch, head of New Scotland Yard and Minister of Investigations in the V for Vendetta graphic novel
- Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the homicide department of the Sûreté du Québec in the Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny
- DCI Morse of the Colin Dexter novels and the Inspector Morse television series.
- DCI Tom Barnaby of the Caroline Graham novels and the Midsomer Murders television series
- DCI Gene Hunt of the television series Life on Mars (set in 1973) and Ashes to Ashes (set between 1981 and 1983)
- DCI Sam Tyler of Life on Mars (although when he awakes in 1973 he is a DI, in 2006 he holds the rank of DCI)
- DCI (later Detective Superintendent) Jane Tennison of the Prime Suspect television series
- DCI James Japp of the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot novels and the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot
- DCI (both formerly and later Superintendent) Jack Meadows of the TV series The Bill
- DCI Frank Burnside of the TV series The Bill (in which he was a detective inspector) and his own series, Burnside
- DCI Frank Haskins of the TV series The Sweeney
- DCI John Luther of the TV series Luther
- DCI Alan Banks of the Peter Robinson series of novels and the television series DCI Banks
- DCI Ethan Scott of the TV Series Hollyoaks
- DCI Jim Taggart of the TV series Taggart
- DCI Vera Stanhope of the TV Series Vera Vera
- DCI Thomas Nightingale of the Book Rivers of London
- DCI Gillian Murray of the TV Series Scott and Bailey
- DCI Tony Gates of the TV Series Line of Duty
- DCI Richard Jury (later Superintendent) in several Martha Grimes novels.
- Report of the Committee of Inquiry on the Police, 1978
- Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1953
- Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1954
- Police pay scales