Chief constable

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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 was also held, ex officio, by the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers under the Police Reform Act 2002.[1] 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.

The chief officers of some police departments in Canada also hold the title of chief constable. The chief officer of the Sovereign Base Areas Police also holds the title of chief constable.


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 - the term is dervived from the Latin comes stabuli (keeper of the stables)[2] - 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.

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.[3] Other counties followed this pattern; for instance, Essex appointed its first chief constable on 11 February 1840.[4]

Originally, most borough police forces were commanded by a head constable, although this rank was superseded by chief constable in most forces in the later 19th century and early 20th century and was almost completely abolished by the Police Act 1919. Liverpool City Police was the only large force to retain it until then.

The first woman to hold the rank of chief constable was Pauline Clare, appointed Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary on 14 June 1995.[5]

Characteristics of office[edit]

Chief Constable

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.[6] This is similar to the insignia of a lieutenant-general in the British Army and is also worn by an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police.

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.

British police forces without chief constables[edit]


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.


The Royal Irish Constabulary was headed by an inspector-general of police, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary also adopted that rank on its formation in 1922. In 1970, however, the RUC adopted standard British police ranks, including chief constable. In 2001, the RUC was renamed and restructured as the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The new force kept the rank of chief constable.

The Dublin Metropolitan Police was headed by a chief commissioner.

Private police forces[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.


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.[7]

Current chief officers (United Kingdom and Crown dependencies)[edit]

The table below lists the chief officers of British and Crown dependency police forces. The majority of these officers are titled 'Chief Constable', but some hold other or additional titles such as Commissioner or Chief Executive.

Police force Chief officer name Date appointed
Avon & Somerset Constabulary Andy Marsh[8] 1 February 2016
Bedfordshire Police Jon Boutcher, QPM[9] June 2015
British Transport Police Paul Crowther, OBE March 2014[10]
Cambridgeshire Constabulary Alec Wood[11] September 2015
Cheshire Constabulary Simon Byrne, QPM June 2014[12]
City of London Police Ian Dyson, QPM (Commissioner)[13] 3 January 2016
Civil Nuclear Constabulary Mike Griffiths, CBE[14]
Cleveland Police Jacqui Cheer, QPM October 2011
Cumbria Constabulary Jerry Graham (Designate)[15] August 2014
Derbyshire Constabulary Mick Creedon 1 October 2007[16]
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary Shaun Sawyer[17] February 2014[18]
Dorset Police Debbie Simpson[19] October 2012[20]
Durham Constabulary Mike Barton[21] October 2012[22]
Dyfed-Powys Police Mark Collins[23] January 2017 [24]
Essex Police Stephen Kavanagh[25] May 2013
Gloucestershire Constabulary Suzette Davenport[26] February 2013[27]
Greater Manchester Police Ian Hopkins October 2015[28]
Gwent Police Jeff Farrar June 2013 (Temporary; substantive November 2013)[29]
Hampshire Constabulary Olivia Pinkney[30] April 2016
Hertfordshire Constabulary Andy Bliss June 2011[31]
Humberside Police Vacant February 2017
Isle of Man Constabulary Gary Roberts[32] 1 January 2013
Kent Police Alan Pughsley[33] January 2014
Lancashire Constabulary Steve Finnigan[34] March 2007 (Substantive; temporary from February 2005)
Leicestershire Police Simon Cole, QPM[35] June 2010
Lincolnshire Police Neil Rhodes April 2012[36]
Merseyside Police Andy Cooke, QPM[37] July 2016
Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick, CBE, QPM (Commissioner) 10 April 2017[38]
Ministry of Defence Police Alf Hitchcock June 2013[39]
Norfolk Constabulary Simon Bailey, QPM 25 October 2013[40]
North Wales Police Mark Polin 10 September 2009[41]
Northamptonshire Police Simon Edens July 2015[42]
Northumbria Police Steve Ashman[43] June 2015
North Yorkshire Police Dave Jones 3 June 2013[44]
Nottinghamshire Police Chris Eyre[45] August 2012
Police Scotland Phil Gormley, QPM 5 January 2016[46]
Police Service of Northern Ireland George Hamilton, QPM June 2014[47]
South Wales Police Peter Vaughan, QPM, DL January 2010[48]
South Yorkshire Police David Crompton (currently suspended)[49]

Stephen Watson, Interim Chief Constable

April 2012 to July 2016[50]

July 2016

Sovereign Base Areas Police Mick Matthews[51]
Staffordshire Police Jane Sawyers Temp 2014
States of Guernsey Police Service Patrick Rice (Chief Officer)
States of Jersey Police Mike Bowron, QPM (Chief Officer) January 2011[52]
Suffolk Constabulary Gareth Wilson[53] January 2016
Surrey Police Nick Ephgrave[54] July 2016
Sussex Police Giles York
Thames Valley Police Francis Habgood April 2015[55]
Warwickshire Police Martin Jelley[56] 1 April 2015
West Mercia Police Anthony Bangham[57] August 2016
West Midlands Police Dave Thompson, QPM January 2016[58]
West Yorkshire Police Dee Collins[59] Temporary from June 2014; Substantive as of 11 November 16[60]
Wiltshire Constabulary Mike Veale[61] 1 June 2015

Metropolitan Police[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "President of ACPO". Police Reform Act 2002. Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. 
  2. ^ Pike, Michael S (1985). The Principles of Policing, p. 7. The Macmillan Press Ltd. ISBN 0-333-38245-5. 
  3. ^ Wiltshire Constabulary History, Wiltshire Police website
  4. ^ The Making of a Chief Constable, Essex Police website
  5. ^ "First woman chief constable is appointed". The Independent. 15 June 1995. 
  6. ^ Police Ranks and Epaulette Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Avon and Somerset Constabulary website
  7. ^ "Police Pay". 
  8. ^ "Chief Constable Andy Marsh". Avon and Somerset Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  9. ^ "Our Chief Constable". Bedfordshire Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Chief Officers". British Transport Police. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Chief Constable Alec Wood". Cambridgeshire Constabulary. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  12. ^ "Chief Officers". Cheshire Constabuary. 14 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "Commissioner". City of London Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "CNC Ogganisation Chart 1 August 2013" (PDF). Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "Cumbria Police names Jerry Graham as new Chief Constable". BBC. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "Chief Officers". Derbyshire Constabulary. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Shaun Sawyer to become Devon and Cornwall police chief". BBC. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "Shaun Sawyer CONFIRMED as new Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall". 16 January 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  19. ^ "Force Structure". Dorset Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Chief Constable Debbie Simpson" (PDF). Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "About Us". Durham Constabulary. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  22. ^ "New Chief Constable Appointed". Durham Police. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Who's Who". Dyfed-Powys Police. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  24. ^ "Who's Who". Dyfed-Powys Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "Chief Constable Stephan Kavanagh". Essex Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  26. ^ "Chief Constable Stephan Kavanagh". Chief Officers. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "Suzette Davenport is Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police". BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "Chief Officer Team". Greater Manchester Police. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  29. ^ "Gwent Police: Chief Constable". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  30. ^ "Senior Management Team". Hampshire Constabulary. Retrieved 28 Sep 2016. 
  31. ^ "Andy Bliss". Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  32. ^ "Isle of Man Government - Isle of Man Constabulary". Isle of Man Government. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  33. ^ "Alan Pughsley QPM biography - Kent Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  34. ^ "Lancashire Constabulary - Chief Constable Steve Finnigan". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  35. ^ Leicestershire Police. "Chief Constable - Leicestershire Police". Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "Neil Rhodes". Lincolnshire Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  37. ^ "Chief Constable, Andy Cooke, QPM". Merseyside Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ "MOD Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "CC Simon Bailey". Norfolk Constanbulary. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  41. ^ "Chief Constable". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  42. ^ "Candidate chosen to be chief constable of Northamptonshire Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  43. ^ "Chief Constable - Chief Officer Team". Northumbria Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  44. ^ "Chief Constable Dave Jones". North Yorkshire Police. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "About Us - Chief Officer Team". Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  46. ^ "Former Crime Agency chief Phil Gormley appointed new head of Police Scotland". BBC News. 2 December 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  47. ^ "Appointment date set for new Chief". Police Oracle. 9 June 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  48. ^ "Witness Statement of Peter James Vaughan Chief Constable of South Wales Polic" (PDF). The Leveson Enquiry. 19 January 2011. Archived from [http:/ the original] Check |url= value (help) (PDF) on 22 January 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  49. ^
  50. ^ "Chief Constable David Crompton". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  51. ^ "Sovereign Base Area Police Annual Report 14/15" (PDF). Retrieved 27 Sep 2015. 
  52. ^ "States of Jersey Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  53. ^ "Our people". Suffolk Constabulary. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  54. ^ "Senior Leaders". Surrey Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  55. ^ "Thames Valley Police announces new chief constable". BBC. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  56. ^ "Warwickshire Police - Chief Constable Martin Jelley". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  57. ^ "Chief Constable Anthony Bangham". West Mercia Police. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  58. ^ "Command Team - Chief Constable". West Midlands Police. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  59. ^ "Chief Officer Team". West Yorkshire Police. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  60. ^ "PCC Announces New Chief Constable". 3 November 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  61. ^ "Mike Veale". Wiltshire Constabulary. Retrieved 28 September 2016.