The Government today predicted Britain would have its first foreign chief constable in years rather than decades as it unveiled a shake-up of police recruitment rules.
Damian Green, the policing minister, said the current system put off some ambitious recruits to the police service because it would take 25 years to reach top jobs.
Announcing the reforms that have been opposed by rank-and-file police, Mr Green said: “It's a very odd situation where you can only get to the senior ranks of the police in this country if you have started right at the bottom and worked your way up. It's not true in the armed services.”
The proposals to be unveiled by Theresa May later are understood to include direct entry into the police at superintendent level and changes to the law that will allow foreign police chiefs to run forces for the first time.
Current legislation prevented US "supercop" Bill Bratton, former head of the New York police, applying to take charge of the Metropolitan Police in 2011.
Mr Green compared the situation to the recruitment of Mark Carney, a Canadian, to become Governor of the Bank of England. “Bringing in the best talent… is absolutely essential to continue the reform that has successfully led to falling crime in this country,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme. The changes were also intended to lead to more diversity in the force with more women and recruits from ethnic minorities, he said.
The changes are part of the package of reforms drawn up by ex-rail regulator Tom Winsor in his wide-ranging review of police pay and pensions that set policing organisations at loggerheads with the Government.
Under Mr Winsor’s proposals exceptional" applicants would have the chance to rise from civilian to inspector in just three years.
The changes were designed to encourage candidates from business, the military and the security services to change the culture and give the police the same standing as law and medicine, said Mr Winsor last year when he unveiled the changes.
Mr Winsor, now Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, said that the police needed to evolve to keep up with ever more resourceful criminals and for too long police work had been seen as undemanding.
The Police Federation, which represents officers up to the rank of chief inspector, said at the times that the reforms represented a “potentially lethal attack on the office of constable, the bedrock of British policing.”
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told a policing conference earlier this month that it was time to “consider and support” direct entry. He added that he would like to see one in 10 senior officers recruited from outside the police force.