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 was also held, ex officio, by the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers under the Police Reform Act 2002. 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 fifty chief constables. These consist of the chief officers of 37 English territorial forces outside London, four Welsh territorial forces, the Police Service of Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, three special national forces and three Crown Dependency constabularies.
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.
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 derived from the Latin comes stabuli (keeper of the stables) - 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.
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. Other counties followed this pattern; for instance, Essex appointed its first chief constable on 11 February 1840.
Originally, most borough police forces were commanded by a head constable, although this rank was superseded by chief constable in most forces in the later 19th century and early 20th century and was almost completely abolished by the Police Act 1919. Liverpool City Police was the only large force to retain it until then.
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. Prior to 2012, a chief constable was responsible to a police authority. The chief constable is now appointed by and accountable to the Police and Crime Commissioner of their 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. This is similar to the insignia of a lieutenant-general in the British Army and is also worn by an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police.
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.
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 their 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, but also because the Metropolitan Police is by far the largest force in the country. As of 2011, the commissioner earns an annual salary of £260,088, whilst their deputy earns £214,722.
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||Andy Marsh||1 February 2016|
|Bedfordshire Police||Garry Forsyth||July 2019|
|British Transport Police||Paul Crowther,||March 2014|
|Cambridgeshire Constabulary||Nick Dean||September 2018|
|Cheshire Constabulary||Darren Martland||2019|
|City of London Police||Ian Dyson, (Commissioner)||3 January 2016|
|Civil Nuclear Constabulary||Simon Chesterman, ||1 April 2019|
|Cleveland Constabulary||Richard Lewis||April 2019|
|Cumbria Constabulary||Michelle Skeer||Acting since December 2015; April 2018|
|Derbyshire Constabulary||Rachel Swann||14 August 2020|
|Devon and Cornwall Constabulary||Shaun Sawyer||February 2014|
|Dorset Police||Debbie Simpson||October 2012|
|Durham Constabulary||Jo Farrell||June 2019|
|Dyfed-Powys Police||Mark Collins||January 2017|
|Essex Police||B. J. Harrington||4 October 2018|
|Gloucestershire Constabulary||Rod Hansen||February 2013|
|Greater Manchester Police||Ian Pilling||Temporary - January 2021|
|Gwent Police||Pam Kelly||1 July 2019|
|Hampshire Constabulary||Olivia Pinkney, QPM||April 2016|
|Hertfordshire Constabulary||Charlie Hall, QPM||October 2016|
|Humberside Police||Lee Freeman||26 June 2017|
|Isle of Man Constabulary||Gary Roberts||1 January 2013|
|Kent Police||Alan Pughsley||January 2014|
|Lancashire Constabulary||Andy Rhodes||July 2017|
|Leicestershire Constabulary||Simon Cole, QPM||June 2010|
|Lincolnshire Police||Bill Skelly||February 2017|
|Merseyside Police||Andy Cooke, ||July 2016|
|Metropolitan Police||Dame Cressida Dick, (Commissioner)||10 April 2017|
|Ministry of Defence Police||Andy Adams||17 May 2018|
|Norfolk Constabulary||Simon Bailey,||25 October 2013|
|North Wales Police||Carl Foulkes||11 September 2018|
|Northamptonshire Police||Nick Adderley||6 August 2018|
|Northumbria Police||Winton Keenen||26 March 2018|
|North Yorkshire Constabulary||Lisa Winward|
|Nottinghamshire Police||Craig Guildford||1 February 2017|
|Police Scotland||Iain Livingstone|
|Police Service of Northern Ireland||Simon Byrne,||July 2019|
|South Wales Police||Matt Jukes, QPM||January 2018|
|South Yorkshire Police||Stephen Watson||July 2016|
|Sovereign Base Areas Police||Mick Matthews|
|Staffordshire Police||Gareth Morgan||June 2017|
|States of Guernsey Police Service||Ruari Hardy (Chief Officer)||2018|
|States of Jersey Police||Robin Smith (Chief Officer)||November 2019|
|Suffolk Constabulary||Gareth Wilson||January 2016|
|Surrey Police||Gavin Stephens||April 2019|
|Sussex Police||Jo Shiner|
|Thames Valley Police||John Campbell||April 2015|
|Warwickshire Constabulary||Martin Jelley||1 April 2015|
|West Mercia Constabulary||Anthony Bangham||August 2016|
|West Midlands Police||Dave Thompson,||January 2016|
|West Yorkshire Police||Dee Collins, CBE, QPM||Temporary from June 2014; Substantive as of 11 November 2016|
|Wiltshire Constabulary||Kier Pritchard||March 2018|
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.