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Appointment process for Association of Chief Police Officer (ACPO) ranks - Guidance for police authorities

The Home Office (HO) guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures," which is on the HO website, broadly sets out the formal process to be followed in the selection of ACPO rank officers and makes it clear that it is the responsibility of all police authorities to ensure their procedures are fair and consistent. The HO guidance is guidance and is not prescriptive other than where there are statutory requirements and obligations under various equalities legislation.

This guide is purely for the benefit of police authority members and officers who are involved in the selection of ACPO ranks. It is not intended to slavishly replicate the HO guidance, but it is designed as a brief guide to help police authorities.

General principles

Police authorities must ensure that their selection procedures:

  • are fair and non-discriminatory;
  • allow candidates to be assessed fully for the rank and role or roles (if known and/or available) for which they are applying. Although some or all of the ACPO competences should be used, police authorities can use other activities, behaviours or measures if these are appropriate;
  • are transparent and understood by the candidates and the selection panel;
  • reflect statutory requirements; and
  • reflect good practice in selection.

Eligibility for appointment

Police authorities are responsible for the appointment of ACPO ranks (chief constable, DCC and ACC and equivalents) under sections 11(1), 11A and 12(2) of the Police Act 1996, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State and regulations made under Section 50 of the Police Act 1996 (Secretary of State’s determinations). Candidates should have successfully completed the police service’s Strategic Command Course (SCC).

Appointments to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are governed by sections 9B to 9G of the Police Act 1996, as inserted by the Greater London Authority Act 1999; appointments to the City of London Police are governed by the City of London Act 1839.

Chief Constable appointments

It is expected that candidates for the post of chief constable should meet the standard eligibility requirement for that post, as set out in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of the determination made under Regulation 11 of the Police Regulations 2003.

The posts of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis are made under Royal Warrant. Their appointments are subject to approval by the Secretary of State, who would make his recommendation to the Palace, having consulted the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA).

The standard eligibility requirement requires candidates for the post of chief constable (unless there are exceptional circumstances) to have worked at ACPO level for at least 2 years:

  • in another police force (from the one to which they are applying); or
  • in the British Transport Police; or
  • whilst engaged on relevant service within the meaning of section 97(1) of the Police Act 1996 (see box below); or
  • partly in one of the capacities above and partly in another.

Section 97(1) of the 1996 Police Act

Section 97(1) of the 1996 Police Act defines "relevant service" as meaning:

  • temporary service relating to the provision of advice and assistance to international organisations etc (section 26 of the Police Act 1996);
  • temporary service with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 2 to the Police Reform Act 2002);
  • temporary service as an assistant inspector or staff officer in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (section 56 of the Police Act 1996);
  • temporary service in connection with any body that the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient for promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of the police (section 57 of the Police Act 1996) or in connection with research or other services related to the police;
  • temporary service with the Police Information Technology Organisation;
  • temporary service with the Central Police Training and Development Authority;
  • temporary service with the Assets Recovery Agency;
  • temporary service as a member of staff in the Serious Organised Crime Agency;
  • temporary service as an adviser to the Secretary of State;
  • service which attracts expenses payable under section 1(1) of the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945;
  • temporary service with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (to be commenced);
  • service in the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
  • service pursuant to an appointment under section 10 of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980; or
  • service in connection with the provision by the Secretary of State of assistance under the International Development Act 2001.

Exceptional circumstances

The standard eligibility requirement is, however, subject to paragraph 2 of Part 1 of the determination made under Regulation 11 of the Police Regulations 2003. Paragraph 2 provides that where ‘exceptional circumstances’ apply, consideration may be given to whether the standard eligibility requirement should be waived for a particular candidate.

What is the process for determining ‘exceptional circumstances’?

If a potential candidate considers that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ for which consideration should be given to whether the standard eligibility requirement should be waived, he or she should make an ‘exceptional circumstances request’ which should be attached to his or her application form. The request should set out (i) the nature of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ and (ii) any relevant alternative experience that the candidate has.

The police authority will then submit all the applications to SAP in the normal way, together with any ‘exceptional circumstances requests’.

SAP, when reviewing all of the applications for the chief constable post in question on behalf of the Secretary of State, should jointly consider any ‘exceptional circumstances request’ and make a recommendation as to whether the standard eligibility requirement should be waived for the individual. SAP should also consider the impact on equality to ensure that there are no unintended or unforeseen impacts, and/or that any impacts are managed. At the SAP meeting, the chair of the police authority to which the individual has applied will be invited to express a view on the implications for the balance of the whole ACPO team should the candidate be successful in securing the post.

The Secretary of State will then consider the advice of the SAP for all candidates, including any recommendations for exemption from the standard eligibility criteria, when approving the final candidate list.

Senior Appointments Panel (SAP)

SAP has three core responsibilities (although the recent policing Green Paper “From the Neighbourhood to the National” may change the nature of this role):

(i) Upon receipt of the final candidate lists from the police authority, sifting applications for all

chief officer positions in forces within England and Wales, handling all aspects of the formal approval process, and returning candidate approval lists to the recruiting police authority for shortlisting;

(ii) Maintaining a comprehensive database of all chief officer and potential chief officer vacancies in England and Wales; and

(iii) The co-ordination and timetabling of senior appointments.

Pre-selection process

The police authority should maintain a record of the start and expiry dates of the fixed term appointments (FTAs) and the point at which ACPO rank officers reach 30 years’ pensionable service. Officers may retire prior to expiry of their FTA [1] or before reaching retirement age or may transfer to another force. Those officers with an FTA, i.e. officers above the rank of ACC or Commander, may wish to seek an extension to the FTA or work beyond normal retirement age. In all cases, planning and preparation should be as long-term as is possible and practical.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (the Regulations) came into force on 1 October 2006. These Regulations made it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age in employment. Although the Regulations do not apply specifically to police officers, they are to be followed in spirit. The Police Pensions Act 1976 empowers the Secretary of State to set compulsory retirement ages (CRAs) for members of police forces. CRAs of 65 have been set for all ACPO ranks, but with added the flexibility to extend service for an unlimited period at the discretion of the police authority. The Police Pensions and Retirement Policy Section of the Home Office have now stated that, given the new CRA, there is no requirement to review the service of an ACC or Commander until they reach age 65.

Selection of police authority members

The first priority is to ensure all police authority members involved in ACPO selection are fully engaged with, and understand, the selection process. The police authority must ensure that all those taking part have the skills and knowledge to carry out this role. All police authority members of a selection panel should have attended at least one Association of Police Authorities (APA) or recognised training session for the selection of ACPO rank officers, ideally within the last three years.

Police authorities should also ensure there is an appropriate mix of people on each selection panel, i.e. independent and Assembly members, and by reference to gender and ethnic origin etc.

Selection process

The selection process can be summarised as follows:

  • a vacancy arises and the police authority, in consultation with the police force, agrees that it should be filled;
  • the process is agreed including the competences to be tested, terms and conditions, time scales etc. The regional HMI and SAP are consulted about the role(s);
  • the post is advertised with at least three weeks given to respond. Ideally the advert should include all key dates for the process, including the dates of any assessment processes. (Regulation 13B of the Police Act 1995 specifies three weeks is the minimum period);
  • applications are received and copies sent to SAP;
  • SAP seeks ministerial approval to agree which candidates who have applied are suitable to be considered for shortlisting (Sections 11 and 12 of the Police Act 1996);
  • SAP sends an approved candidate list to the police authority;
  • the police authority shortlists candidates from the approved list that it wishes to put through assessment process. If candidates have not been approved, the police authority can choose to shortlist, but this would be extremely unusual;
  • the assessment process should be one or more of any number of selection exercises and ends with an interview by the selection panel;
  • the number of members on a selection panel is not fixed but is never less than 3. The panel aims to achieve consensus on their decisions. In the event of a tie, the Chair would normally have a casting vote;
  • the Chair of the selection panel must attend the shortlisting and final interview stages. Other members of the panel do not have to attend the shortlisting stage, although it would be best practice to do so. They should, however, assess the candidates prior to the date fixed for shortlisting and provide written views to the Chief Executive;
  • the regional HMI advises the Authority at the shortlisting stage. He or she would attend the final selection panel for roles at Chief Constable and equivalent (Assistant Commissioner and above);
  • the Chief Constable is the professional police adviser to the selection panel and is present at the shortlisting and final interview stages;
  • the police authority Chief Executive is the adviser on legal and technical points to the selection panel and is present at the shortlisting and final interview stages. The Chief Executive is also responsible for the fairness and integrity of the selection process ;
  • police authority members interview candidates . Although the advisers (see previous bullet points) can ask questions, e.g. to seek clarification on a candidate's answer, they have no role in the decision making process ;
  • the police authority’s final decision is based on evidence gleaned from all the information from all stages of the selection process.


A template advertisement is in the Home Office (HO) guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures." The advert should include as much information about the role and timescales as possible. Depending upon the nature and size of the police force, this does not prevent the police authority from appointing a candidate who does not subsequently fill the advertised vacancy (unless it is a Chief Constable appointment). The posting of ACPO rank officers is a matter for the Chief Constable in consultation with the police authority.

Ideally information, including the application form and application pack, should be available electronically through a website or email address. This is particularly sensible if the application pack includes bulky documents, for example, the police authority’s policing plan and annual report, the chief constable’s last annual report etc.

The option of returning the application and other forms electronically should also be explored.

Open day or familiarisation day

This could be open to potential internal or external candidates either as an initial part of a selection process or as a more general initiative to encourage applications. This would also be more of a level playing field for external candidates in providing an appreciation of the roles to which they may aspire. This would need commitment from both the police authority and the police force, although many forces have in-house events management teams that could be commissioned to run the events.

Applications and application packs

A template application form is in the Home Office (HO) guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures." As previously stated, although some or all of the ACPO competences should be used, police authorities can use other activities, behaviours or measures against which candidates have to provide evidence and against which candidates can be assessed.

The police authority should include details of their equal opportunities policy and their standard diversity monitoring form (a template version is also available in the HO guidance). The diversity monitoring form data should only be shared by the Chief Executive with SAP.

The police authority should also require candidates to disclose any outstanding criminal investigations or disciplinary proceedings being carried out in relation to their performance or conduct. It is also strongly recommended that the police authority should ask candidates to disclose previous disciplinary offences that have not been expunged.

The police authority should also require candidates to complete a medical questionnaire (a template is in the HO guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures.") In order to avoid excessive paperwork this can be restricted to either shortlisted candidates or selected candidate(s), with the offer of an appointment made conditional upon, for example, a medical and/or references. Medical health questionnaires should be returned in a sealed envelope and forwarded to the Chief Medical Officer or a suitably qualified medical practitioner. Medical information must not be disclosed to police authority members or officers.

As part of this process, candidates could also be asked to provide feedback on their experience of the process in order to inform future exercises. Similarly, candidates who applied for an application pack but chose not to apply could also be asked for feedback on their reasons.


As applications are received they should be copied to SAP in order that they can obtain the Chief Officer’s assessment and the regional HMI’s assessment. SAP should provide these, together with the SCC score for ACC or Commander processes, to the police authority for each candidate. Short-listing can take place once SAP has confirmed the approval (or otherwise) of the candidates who have applied for the post(s).

The Chief Executive should provide members with a résumé of each candidate, drawn from their application form and referenced against the competences, other activities, behaviours or measures against which candidates have to provide evidence, and the job description (if available). This should also include reference to the chief officer’s and regional HMI’s assessments.

Assessment scale

The scale being used for scoring all events and exercises is that which is recommended in the HO Guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures," together with a template (including descriptors). It is important that the assessors are familiar with the scale and its descriptors. While it is difficult for all assessors to have the same calibration against the assessment scale it is important the each assessor is consistent in his or her own marking regime. It is also important to use the range in the scale when assessing the evidence provided by candidates on the application form.

Assessment forms and record keeping

The HO Guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures" contains individual and ‘collective’ assessment forms. The Chair of the selection panel must ensure that members complete and then declare their individual scores for each candidate before there is discussion about the candidate’s application form.

All of the scores, including those of the chief officer and regional HMI, should be recorded on a matrix and then collated. Each candidate’s marks are added to give a total and comparison of the totals gives an indication to the selection panel of a potential shortlist. These collated scores are not prescriptive in determining who should be shortlisted. The selection panel are free to compile their own shortlist.

Ideally the shortlist should be no less than three candidates. Ultimately it is a police authority decision, although it may be sensible to discuss this with the regional HMI and/or SAP.

The Chief Executive of the reasons for inclusion or non-inclusion of candidates on the shortlist should make a formal record. These should be retained for record purposes and to enable feedback to be given to candidates who are not shortlisted. All candidates, shortlisted and not shortlisted, should be informed in writing.

Assessment process for shortlisted candidates

The police authority should give careful consideration to the scale and nature of its chosen selection procedures, and should aim to adopt arrangements consistent with current best practice. All candidates should be assessed in the same way, under the same procedures. Whilst the interview is one of the most widely used methods of assessment it can be a highly unreliable selection tool and should not be used in isolation. Candidates should be seen on at least two or three separate occasions to ensure they are properly tested.

There is a range of selection tools available to police authorities, including:

  • Presentations – topic given to candidate on the day with 30 minutes preparation
  • Initial interviews with one or two members on specific competences or issues prior to the final selection interview
  • Selection panel interviews
  • Media exercise – the use and role of a professional advisor
  • Structured interviews on a particular competence, activity, behaviour etc conducted by trained external assessors
  • Technical interviews conducted by a chief officer with or without member involvement, to focus on professional competence
  • Psychometric tests – this will provide further evidence for the selection panel to test sensitivity or memory or intelligence or aptitude or personality etc

In any event, the Authority should continually review the selection tools available. Although some of these tools are used in, for example, the Senior Police National Assessment Centre (SPNAC), they can be tailored for a selection process for a particular force and/or role.

Final selection interview

The final selection interview should be 30-60 minutes and should be seen as the opportunity for gathering data rather than making final judgements on candidates. The final selection interview should be conducted after all assessment data has been gathered. Interview questions and presentation topics should be generic and not expect too in-depth a knowledge of the local force.

The final interview assessment is a four-stage process, namely Observe – what was seen and what was heard; Record –evidence in panel member’s own written format; Classify – which competency is supported by the evidence? (It may be more than one) Evaluate – award a mark using the rating scale. The questions need to have a relevance to the role or rank. They need to be carefully thought out, planned and agreed in advance. The format needs to follow a logical sequence and this should be the same for each candidate, although this should not inhibit supplementary questions. The candidate should do the talking and the panel should aim for this to be in the order of 85% of the interview time.

The HO Guidance "Recruitment and Selection of Chief Police Officers - guidance on appointment procedures" contains templates for presentation recording sheets (which can be used for any other form of assessment), interview recording sheets and an assessment evaluation form for the Chief Executive to summarise the scores for each candidate. All of the scores, for all parts of the selection process, for each candidate are to be recorded on a matrix. (see Appendix 1)

Each candidate’s marks are added to give a total and comparison of the totals gives an indication of the order after completion of the selection process. The scores are not in themselves the order of merit but they should drive the debate about success or failure of each candidate. The Chair must ensure there is a debate about the positioning of candidates and that the other evidence (i.e. the application, HMI and Chief Officer reports) are given attention before a final decision is made. The information and reasoning discussed at that point is the backbone for feedback to the candidates (successful and unsuccessful).

To meet any legal challenge against non-selection or malpractice, all selection documents, assessment records and notes, from all stages of the process, will be kept for at least twelve months, as a formal paper audit of the selection procedure. Ideally a copy of each individual’s application form and all assessments sheets or reports should be kept for longer, subject to the reasonableness of this approach under data protection legislation. It is absolutely essential that all participants properly document their activity.

Post selection process

When a final selection has been made, the successful candidate should be notified as soon as possible and, except in exceptional circumstances, on the day of the assessment, subject to medical and/or references if not already obtained.

A brief report should be prepared by the Chief Executive summarising the selection panel’s reasons for reaching their decision. The Chair of the selection panel should also confirm on the panel’s papers that the selection process has been carried out in accordance with these guidelines.

On completion of the selection process, a report should be made available on each candidate’s performance and, in particular, his or her strengths and weaknesses. It will be for the candidate to decide whether he or she wishes to be made aware of the contents of the report and, if so, how. If possible, arrangements should be made for the candidate to discuss the report with the Chief Executive. Additionally, the selection panel may invite candidates to discuss the contents with the force’s chief constable or regional HMI.

The police authority will need to decide how much information should be made available from other parts of the selection process, although none of this information should be shared with the individual’s own police authority or force. In providing feedback the police authority should also avoid discussing with the individual comparisons with other candidates.

It was agreed by SAP that knowledge of the reasons why a candidate had been unsuccessful at shortlisting or interview would be helpful. The Chair of the APA asked that, in respect of unsuccessful candidates for ACPO posts, they complete the form, (see Appendix 2), to be made available to SAP in the event of a subsequent application:

The Chief Executive should inform SAP of the result of the selection panel at the earliest opportunity, together with details of start date, appointment end date (if appropriate), etc.  


1. The agreement reached by the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) regarding FTA extensions came into force on 1 July 2006 via the Police (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006 No 1467). Regulation 2 of the Amendment Regulations amended Regulation 11 of the Police Regulations 2003 by substituting for paragraph (2): [Back]

2. An appointment to the rank of – [Back]

(a) Chief Constable or DCC in a police force maintained under section 2 of the Act;

(b) Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Met; or

(c) Assistant Commissioner in the City of London police force, shall be for a fixed term.
2A. Subject to paragraph (2B), an appointment for a fixed term shall be for a maximum of five years.
2B. An appointment for a fixed term may be extended, by agreement of the police authority and the person appointed, for a further term of a maximum of three years and for subsequent terms each of a maximum of one year, provided that any extension or subsequent extension which is due to expire more than one year after the expiry of the original fixed term shall required the consent of the Secretary of State.
3 .In paragraph 4 after the words ‘a rank specified in paragraph (2)’ insert the words ‘or the rank of ACC in a police force maintained under section 2 of the Act, or commander in the metropolitan police force or City of London police force.’
Legal advice to SAP since these Regulations came into force is that if a police authority agrees to an initial extension of one year or less (rather than the maximum 3 years) any subsequent extension is still limited to a maximum of one year, but there appears to be no limit on the number of extensions which may be granted. [Back]

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