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Chief constable

Chief constable is the rank used by the chief police officer of every territorial police force in the United Kingdom except for the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police, as well as the chief officers of the three 'special' national police forces, the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. The title is also held by the chief officers of the principal Crown Dependency police forces, the Isle of Man Constabulary, States of Guernsey Police Service, and States of Jersey Police. The title is also held, ex officio, by the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers under the Police Reform Act 2002.[1] It was also the title of the chief officer of the Royal Parks Constabulary until this agency was disbanded in 2004.

Throughout the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies there are currently 50 chief constables. These consist of the chief officers of 37 English territorial forces outside London, 4 Welsh territorial forces, the Police Service of Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, 3 special national forces, 3 Crown Dependency constabularies, and the President of ACPO, Sir Hugh Orde.

The chief officers of some police departments in Canada also hold the title of chief constable. The chief officer of the Sovereign Base Areas Police also holds the title of chief constable.


  • History of title 1
  • Characteristics of office 2
  • British police forces without chief constables 3
    • London 3.1
    • Private police forces 3.2
    • Service police forces 3.3
    • British Overseas Territories 3.4
  • County police forces in England and Wales 4
  • Current chief officers (United Kingdom and Crown dependencies) 5
  • Metropolitan Police 6
  • Previous alternative titles (now defunct) 7
    • Liverpool City Police 7.1
    • Police Service of Northern Ireland 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9

History of title

The title is a derived from the original local parish constables of the 18th century and earlier. Constable and constabulary were terms adopted in an attempt to provide a historical link with the older forces - the term is dervived from the Latin comes stabuli (keeper of the stables)[2] - and to emphasise local control. Much of the debate about policing in the early 19th century, when modern police forces were introduced in the United Kingdom, concerned fears that the new forces might become paramilitary agents of central government control. To this day other British police ranks, such as inspector and superintendent, are determinedly non-paramilitary – only police sergeants hold a quasi-military rank and even then the term sergeant had long existed as a non-military officer of subordinate rank.

Characteristics of office

Rank insignia of a chief constable

The population of areas for which chief constables are responsible varies from a few hundred thousand to two or three million and it is commonplace for chief constables for larger force areas to be drawn from the chief constables of smaller forces. A chief constable has no senior officer, but is responsible to the Police and Crime Commissioner. Prior to 2012, the chief constable was responsible to the Police Authority. The chief constable is now appointed by the Police and Crime Commissioner of the service, who may also dismiss the chief constable.

The chief constable's badge of rank, worn on the epaulettes, consists of crossed tipstaves in a laurel wreath, surmounted by a crown.[3] This is similar to the insignia of a lieutenant-general in the British Army.

The chief constable is assisted by a deputy chief constable (DCC) and one or more assistant chief constables (ACC). The chief constable, DCC and ACCs are collectively known as the "chief officers" of a force and belong to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

British police forces without chief constables


The two territorial police forces in London are not headed by chief constables. The chief officer of the Metropolitan Police and the chief officer of the City of London Police each instead hold the rank of Commissioner.

Private police forces

A number of corporations and institutions have a right under British law to raise private police forces; in most cases these organisations (which include railway companies, port and airport authorities, universities, cathedrals, and local government agencies responsible for certain markets, parks, tunnels, and open spaces) are permitted to employ uniformed officials who hold the office of constable whilst on (or near to) the property of the organisation concerned, but have no wider jurisdiction. Whilst these private police forces tend to use standard police ranks and uniforms, they are usually very small in size. The chief officer usually therefore holds a lower rank.

Service police forces

Police forces are maintained by the four branches of the British armed forces, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Royal Marines. However, these forces use the respective military ranks of the service to which they are attached, and therefore have no chief constable.

British Overseas Territories

Each of the British Overseas Territories (other than the British Antarctic Territory) has its own police force. In the majority of these the chief officer wears the rank markings of a chief constable, but holds the title of Commissioner. In the very small island forces, the chief officer holds a lower rank (for example, the Falkland Islands, where the chief officer is a chief superintendent). The Pitcairn Islands Police is the smallest British police force, usually staffed by one officer (but sometimes two) on secondment from another force. The only British Overseas Territory police force to be headed by a chief constable is the Sovereign Base Areas Police.

County police forces in England and Wales

The County Police Act 1839 gave the counties of England and Wales the opportunity to establish full-time police forces, headed by a chief constable who was appointed by the justices of the peace of the county. The first county to implement this was Wiltshire Constabulary, which appointed Captain Samuel Meredith RN its first chief constable on 28 November 1839.[4] Other counties followed this pattern; for instance, Essex appointed its first chief constable on 11 February 1840.[5]

The first woman to hold the rank was Pauline Clare, appointed Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary on 14 June 1995.[6]

The salaries of chief constables vary from force to force, primarily on the basis of the population of their force's territory, but the amounts are fixed centrally. From 1 September 2010, the highest paid is the chief constable of Northern Ireland, on £193,548, in recognition of the unique security challenges and political sensitivity of that office. Other salaries range from £181,455 in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, down to £127,017. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and his deputy are paid significantly more than any chief constable, partly because the Metropolitan Police has national anti-terrorism and security duties that overlap with other local forces. As of 2011 the commissioner earns an annual salary of £260,088, whilst his deputy earns £214,722.[7]

Current chief officers (United Kingdom and Crown dependencies)

The table below lists the chief officers of British and Crown dependency police forces. The majority of these officers are titled 'Chief Constable', but some hold other or additional titles such as Commissioner or Chief Executive.

Police force Chief officer name Date appointed
Avon & Somerset Constabulary Nick Gargan March 2013
Bedfordshire Police Colette Paul[8] May 2013
British Transport Police Paul Crowther March 2014[9]
Cambridgeshire Constabulary Simon Parr September 2010[10]
Cheshire Constabulary Simon Byrne June 2014[11]
City of London Police Adrian Leppard (Commissioner)[12] January 2011
Civil Nuclear Constabulary Mike Griffiths[13]
Cleveland Police Jacqui Cheer October 2011
Cumbria Constabulary Jerry Graham (Designate)[14] August 2014
Derbyshire Constabulary Mick Creedon 1 October 2007[15]
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary Shaun Sawyer[16] February 2014[17]
Dorset Police Debbie Simpson[18] October 2012[19]
Durham Constabulary Mike Barton[20] October 2012[21]
Dyfed-Powys Police Simon Prince[22] March 2013[23]
Essex Police Stephen Kavanagh[24] May 2013
Gloucestershire Constabulary Suzette Davenport[25] February 2013[26]
Greater Manchester Police Sir Peter Fahy 2008[27]
Gwent Police Jeff Farrar June 2013 (Temporary; substantive November 2013)[28]
Hampshire Constabulary Andy Marsh January 2013[29]
Hertfordshire Constabulary Andy Bliss June 2011[30]
Humberside Police Justine Curran 1 April 2013[31]
Isle of Man Constabulary Gary Roberts[32] 1 Jan 2013
Kent Police Alan Pughsley[33] January 2014
Lancashire Constabulary Steve Finnigan[34] March 2007 (Substantive; temporary from February 2005)
Leicestershire Police Simon Cole[35] June 2010
Lincolnshire Police Neil Rhodes
Merseyside Police Sir Jon Murphy[36] February 2010
Metropolitan Police Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner) 12 September 2011[37]
Ministry of Defence Police Alf Hitchcock June 2013[38]
Norfolk Constabulary Simon Bailey 25 October 2013[39]
North Wales Police Mark Polin 10 September 2009[40]
Northamptonshire Police Simon Edens July 2015[41]
Northumbria Police Sue Sim[42] April 2010 (Temporary; Apr 2011 substantive)[43]
North Yorkshire Police Dave Jones 3 June 2013[44]
Nottinghamshire Police Chris Eyre[45] August 2012
Police Scotland Stephen House 1 October 2012[46]
Police Service of Northern Ireland George Hamilton June 2014[47]
South Wales Police Peter Vaughan January 2010[48]
South Yorkshire Police David Crompton April 2012[49]
Sovereign Base Areas Police Mick Matthews[50]
Staffordshire Police Jane Sawyers Temp 2014
States of Guernsey Police Service Patrick Rice (Chief Officer)
States of Jersey Police Mike Bowron (Chief Officer) January 2011[51]
Suffolk Constabulary Douglas Paxton March 2013[52]
Surrey Police Lynne Owens February 2012[53]
Sussex Police Giles York
Thames Valley Police Francis Habgood April 2015[54]
Warwickshire Police Martin Jelley[55] 1 April 2015
West Mercia Police David Shaw August 2011[56]
West Midlands Police Chris Sims 1 Jun 2009[57]
West Yorkshire Police Dee Collins (Temporary)[58] June 2014[59]
Wiltshire Constabulary Patrick Geenty[60] January 2013

Metropolitan Police

In London, the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police are led by commissioners rather than chief constables. Chief constable was, however, a lower rank in the Metropolitan Police which existed between 1886 and 1946.

In 1869, the divisions of the Metropolitan Police were grouped into four districts, and four new officers called district superintendents were appointed to command them, ranking between the divisional superintendents and the two assistant commissioners. These officers were to be generally military officers, civil servants or lawyers who were directly appointed to the rank. This caused a certain amount of concern, since some saw it as the creation of an "officer class" for the police, which had always been resisted.

In 1886, the rank of District Superintendent was renamed chief constable, as it was decided that it could be confused with the divisional superintendents. Unlike their superiors, chief constables were actually sworn into the office of constable, hence the name. A fifth chief constable was later created in the Criminal Investigation Department. The rank became junior to the new rank of deputy assistant commissioner in 1919.

In 1933, the districts were taken over by deputy assistant commissioners, with the chief constables remaining as their deputies. In 1946, the rank was renamed deputy commander.

The rank badge of a Metropolitan Police chief constable consisted of crossed tipstaves in a wreath.

Previous alternative titles (now defunct)

Liverpool City Police

The chief officer of Liverpool City Police was traditionally known as the head constable instead of the chief constable. This title was used until the early 1920s, when chief constable was adopted (also being used by the chief officers of some other small town and borough forces).

Police Service of Northern Ireland

The title was adopted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1969 to replace inspector-general. In 2001, the RUC was renamed and restructured as the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The new force kept the rank of chief constable.

See also


  1. ^ "President of ACPO". Police Reform Act 2002. 
  2. ^ Pike, Michael S (1985). The Principles of Policing, p. 7. The Macmillan Press Ltd.  
  3. ^ Police Ranks and Epaulette, Avon and Somerset Constabulary website
  4. ^ Wiltshire Constabulary History, Wiltshire Police website
  5. ^ The Making of a Chief Constable, Essex Police website
  6. ^ "First woman chief constable is appointed". The Independent. 15 June 1995. 
  7. ^ "Police Pay". 
  8. ^ "Colette Paul named as new Bedfordshire Police chief". BBC. 17 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Chief Officers". British Transport Police. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "Profiles: Simon Parr – Chief Constable". Cambridgeshire Constabulary. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Chief Officers". Cheshire Constabuary. 14 February 2015. 
  12. ^ "Commissioner". City of London Police. 14 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "CNC Ogganisation Chart 1 August 2013" (PDF). Civil Nuclear Constabulary. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Cumbria Police names Jerry Graham as new Chief Constable". BBC. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "Chief Officers". Derbyshire Constabulary. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "Shaun Sawyer to become Devon and Cornwall police chief". BBC. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  17. ^ "Shaun Sawyer CONFIRMED as new Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall". 16 January 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "Force Structure". Dorset Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  19. ^ "Chief Constable Debbie Simpson" (PDF). Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "About Us". Durham Constabulary. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "New Chief Constable Appointed". Durham Police. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  22. ^ "Who's Who". Dyfed-Powys Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Who's Who". Dyfed-Powys Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "Chief Constable Stephan Kavanagh". Essex Police. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "Chief Constable Stephan Kavanagh". Chief Officers. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  26. ^ "Suzette Davenport is Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police". BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  27. ^ "Sir Peter Fahy: Greater Manchester Police's chief constable to retire". BBC News. 9 July 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  28. ^ "Gwent Police: Chief Constable". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  29. ^ Robinson, Julian (16 August 2013). "Hampshire Constabulary's chief constable Andy Marsh being investigated over Stanbridge Earls". Hampshire Chronicle. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  30. ^ "Andy Bliss". Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  31. ^ "Justine Curran QPM, Chief Constable". Humberside Police. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  32. ^ "Isle of Man Government - Isle of Man Constabulary". Isle of Man Government. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  33. ^ "Alan Pughsley QPM biography - Kent Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  34. ^ "Lancashire Constabulary - Chief Constable Steve Finnigan". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  35. ^ Leicestershire Police. "Chief Constable - Leicestershire Police". Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "Sir John Murphy QPM, Chief Constable - Merseyside Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  37. ^ "Bernard Hogan-Howe new Metropolitan Police commissioner". BBC. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  38. ^ "MOD Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  39. ^ "CC Simon Bailey". Norfolk Constanbulary. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "Chief Constable". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  41. ^ "Candidate chosen to be chief constable of Northamptonshire Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  42. ^ "Chief Officer Team". Northumbria Police. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  43. ^ "Policewoman wins Northumbria force's top job". BBC. 20 April 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  44. ^ "Chief Constable Dave Jones". North Yorkshire Police. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "About Us - Chief Officer Team". Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  46. ^ "Reply to Freedom of INformation Request" (PDF). Scottish Police Authority. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  47. ^ "Appointment date set for new Chief". Police Oracle. 9 June 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  48. ^ "Witness Statement of Peter James Vaughan Chief Constable of South Wales Polic" (PDF). The Leveson Enquiry. 19 January 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  49. ^ "Chief Constable David Crompton". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  50. ^ "Sovereign Base Area Police Annual Report 14/15" (PDF). Retrieved 27 Sep 2015. 
  51. ^ "States of Jersey Police". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  52. ^ "Suffolk chief constable Douglas Paxton's absence reviewed". BBC News. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  53. ^ "Chief Constables of Surrey Police". Surrey Police. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  54. ^ "". BBC. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  55. ^ "Warwickshire Police - Chief Constable Martin Jelley". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  56. ^ "West Mercia Police name new chief constable". Lancashire Telegraph. 23 May 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  57. ^ "Command Team - Chief Constable". West Midlands Police. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  58. ^ "Chief Officer Team". West Yorkshire Police. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  59. ^ "". 20 June 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  60. ^ "Wiltshire Police lacks leadership, claim officers and staff". BBC. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
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