The new head of the Police Superintendent’s Association has been challenged over her call for radical changes in police leadership.
Irene Curtis, a Lancashire Constabulary Chief Superintendent, has branded the culture of Britain’s chief constables as “macho, white and middle-aged”.
She wants to see more women and ethnic minority officers in senior positions to bridge equality issues, and a move away from what she described as “dominant type of leaders”.
Her announcement has met with a mixed reaction locally.
Preston Rural East Councillor Tom Davies, who served for as a Lancashire Constabulary traffic officer for 30 years, said: “I totally disagree, and she should be more careful about what she says.
“Positions in the police force should be achieved on merit, and merit alone. If you are good enough for the job, then it shouldn’t matter what race or gender you are.
“The danger with what she is saying is that officers who might not be good enough to be in senior roles, will be pushed forward to fill quotas.
“That will have a negative impact on morale, will lead to resentment and won’t help the female or ethnic minority officer.”
He added: “When I was in the force we started getting graduates coming in, who were being fast-tracked for senior positions.
“The lads who had gone in at a lower level and had passed their two year probation resented it because people with no idea about policing were being fast-tracked.
“There’ are too many people in senior positions trying to make policing business-like.”
In 1995, Lancashire Constabulary was the first force in British history to appoint a female Chief Constable.
Pauline Clare, the daughter of a butcher from Chorley, worked her way up through the Merseyside police before her Lancashire appointment. She retired in 2002.
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, said he welcomed Ms Curtis’s comments.
He said: “In a county which saw the appointment for the first female Chief Constable, it seems only fitting that the former Lancashire Chief Superintendent should now hold this prestigious position and is calling for more equality and diversity in police leadership.
“People like Irene have set the benchmark for other women to strive for high-ranking positions, not just within the police force but, across the board.
“Lancashire Constabulary is already ambitious in its attitude towards equality and diversity but clearly more can always be done. I am in the very early stages of working with the force to establish a new recruiting process which, I hope, will reflect the diverse field in which the police should look to recruit from.”
Most recent Home Office Figures show 17 of the 44 police forces do not have a female in the three most senior ranks of assistant, deputy or chief constable.
Only five forces have a member of an ethnic minority in one of the top jobs, and of the 220 officers in the top three ranks, 36 are women, and six are from an ethnic minority.