Crackdown on top police officers 'retiring' to join private forces

Anti-corruption pledges urged – but Surrey chief fears she cannot stop 'distasteful' exodus

Dozens of people involved in Britain's biggest private-sector policing contract have been ordered to sign "anti-corruption" agreements amid concerns about senior officers retiring and then immediately rejoining on lucrative deals with security firms.

Surrey Chief Constable Lynne Owens – the head of one of the forces involved in the £1.5bn tender – said she found it "quite distasteful" that officers could retire and shift to similar jobs in the private sector almost overnight, but that she was unable to prevent it.

Fourteen rival consortiums are bidding for the contracts offered by the West Midlands and Surrey forces. They include some of the world's biggest security companies, including the huge US multinational KBR which helped to build the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Previous multimillion-pound deals with Cleveland Police have seen officers who were involved in planning the project move to the private sector company that won the bidding.

The forces say they want any private sector involvement to transform the way the police does its business, but it has prompted protests from rank-and-file officers and public sector unions because of concerns over accountability and job cuts.

Officers and officials working on the huge bids have had to sign documents detailing the business interests and investments of both themselves and their families.

"I can't stop someone retiring from the police service and choosing to move employment somewhere else," Ms Owens told The Independent. "What I can do is deal with existing relationships." Her comments come amid concern about potential conflicts of interest as private sector companies look to ex-police officers for help in securing contracts as forces grapple with the problem of 20 per cent budget cuts.

Stuart Lister, a senior lecturer in criminal justice at Leeds University, said the private security industry had a tradition of recruiting from the ranks of retired police. "This is about enhancing the credibility of private security companies but also about accessing the very wide portfolio of contacts that these senior police officers will have."

Surrey declined to say who had expressed interest in bidding, but they are likely to include companies such as G4S and Steria which attended a bidders' conference in March and already have contracts with other forces.

The British arm of KBR – which said it already supplied support services to UK police forces – is the only company so far to publicly declare it has joined the bidding process.

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