‘Utter madness’ was my first thought when the government announced they wanted a foreign police officer to be appointed as a chief constable of a UK police force.
However, after a recent visit to Canada, I now see UK policing could benefit from the experience of senior foreign police leaders and especially from those within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
They are an impressive police service, whose operational style is more compatible with the UK policing style and tradition, than perhaps any other foreign police service. The RCMP is very community focused, putting considerable resources into high visibility patrol and the policing of community events, such as local sporting events and fetes. In the UK, one effect of the financial cuts is that police are finding themselves unable to deploy to this type of event.
Both the ceremonial and the operational ‘Mountie’ uniforms are much smarter than a UK ‘Bobby’. Without doubt this helps the Mounties, as they are equipped to deal with day-to-day policing whilst looking professional and approachable. They also have a presence which portrays themselves as a credible threat to criminals.
Whilst they are an armed service, they are far from trigger-happy. I was in Quebec, when 500 miles away in Moncton, three RCMP officers were shot dead and two others were wounded attending the report of a firearms incident.
The RCMP response was very impressive both at the scene and in the media. Senior officers took control of the incident, displaying leadership skills which were decisive, thoughtful and compassionate. It is worth highlighting the suspect was arrested without a shot being fired.
This tragic incident also reinforces my view that the UK police should remain a mainly unarmed service, as being permanently armed does not necessarily make officers or the public any safer. UK policing has taken a battering in recent months and one way of restoring public and political faith may just be to look for help from foreign shores. It would be a considerable challenge for any incoming foreign officer but there are candidates who may be able to bring a breath of fresh air and new ideas.
Although it would be a very bold move for any police and crime commissioner to go down this route, perhaps it is time to consider whether Lancashire’s next Chief Constable should be a Mountie?