Last October Tom Winsor became the first Chief Inspector of Constabulary to be appointed who had not served as a Police Officer. This role was first created in 1856 and so this was a significant break with 156 years of history. His appointment was very controversial, not just because of his lack of policing experience, but because two years earlier he had been appointed to carry out a review of policing for the new coalition Government. This unpopular review was published in two parts. The first part was focused primarily on pay and conditions. The second part generated a number of proposals that appeared to reveal his lack of policing experience. He didn’t write it alone but when he requested a consultation with the various representative groups of police officers who could have ironed out some of the wilder ideas, he discovered that they were tied up with negotiations on the pay and conditions that the first part of his review proposed. Some of the proposals from part two have yet to be tested more than 18 months later. One of the issues which the Winsor review took for granted was the new role of Police and Crime Commissioner, at that stage yet to be enacted. He saw this as a good thing, but not sufficient to change the culture of Policing. He was determined to introduce more people and ideas from outside Policing into its very core.
As Tom Winsor was working on the second part of his review I was deciding to stand for the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner post in Sussex. I became aware of Tom Winsor just as this second part of the review was being completed. One of the questions I faced from a number of people was the issue of wearing a uniform, would I get a uniform if I was elected. I was very clear in my own mind, that the post was not in any way involved in operational policing, nor was it a ceremonial role (such as the goats that some military regiments parade with) and so there was no question of a uniform more than to wear a business suit. The same was true of the use of a title. Although the PCC would be the Police and Crime Commissioner, they would be referred to with their normal title or perhaps Sir / Madam by Officers who felt the need for such formality (such terms are used by Officers when addressing members of the public on a daily basis). However not everyone agreed. I was at a hustings meeting with Vera Baird who described to a packed audience of people from the world of Criminal Justice, the ideas that she had for designing a uniform. Equally our own Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne has made it clear that she expects Officers to refer to her as Commissioner Bourne. These affectations are so ridiculous that they do not really deserve any more comment. However it now appears that Tom Winsor is planning to wear a uniform for the National Police Memorial Day Service on Sunday. This is deeply concerning and it hardly speaks of the changed culture that he wanted to introduce, back in 2010 when he began his review.
The HMIC website has published this statement “As independent holders of public office under the Crown, appointed under Royal Warrant, they are neither civil servants nor police officers. The uniforms associated with the role of Inspectors of Constabulary are not police uniforms (although they look similar). For instance, the insignia and cap badge contain the letters ‘HMIC’; the Chief Inspector’s insignia also includes a star. From time to time – particularly for memorial and remembrance services – one or more of the Inspectors of Constabulary attends an event in the HMIC uniform. Wherever practicable, this duty is discharged by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, as the senior Inspector of Constabulary.” The reason why HMIC has a uniform at all is because half of their Inspectors are police officers, and historically the Chief Inspector has always been a Police Officer. Under these circumstances it would be totally inappropriate for them to either pretend they were not Police trained, or else to wear a uniform from the force that they last worked for. However the other half of the Inspectors are not Police Officers. For them to wear the HMIC uniform would be a travesty and a ridiculous fancy dress parade. If the information is correct that Tom Winsor is planning to wear a Uniform on Sunday, he should be ashamed of himself. A Police Uniform is clothing that reflects the training and skills that have been developed by the individuals over time, Police Officers are people who hold warrant cards that explains their unique role in society. They are civilians who have been rigorously trained and they are a point of reference for society as a whole. Indeed Tom Winsor wrote extensively in his reviews about the nature of the uniform and of the training that qualifies the officer to wear those clothes. Sadly some people do not respect these clothes, and others find them oppressive or are even frightened of them in some cases as a result of experiences in other nations. This is not simply about a piece of cloth or a few buttons. Whatever one thinks of Police Officers and their uniform, wearing something that is indistinguishable from it when untrained, or being called a title that has no validity, risks bringing the whole system into disrepute, just as much as acting in a manner that shows contempt for society when wearing it legitimately.