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An overhaul of police recruitment rules have been unveiled today which will allow foreign candidates to apply for chief constable roles and a fast-track scheme could see constables rise to the rank of inspector in just three years.
New recruits will no longer have to serve as a bobby on the beat for the first time in Britain.
The Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales says it would welcome the extra skills gained by recruiting people without a police background into senior roles.
But its President Elect, Irene Curtis, said: "I think the risk of bringing people to manage high-risk operational incidents directly into the service is far too high."
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, says external candidates should not be allowed to join at any rank above constable - as is the case currently.
Another part of the plans to overhaul recruitment could mean foreign police chiefs are hired.
Steve White, the Federation's Vice Chairman, said: "We have the best police service in the world so it seems strange that the Government may wish for forces to recruit chief constables from overseas."
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has said that the changes could mean existing officers are frustrated in their bids for promotion.
Sir Peter Fahy, who is head of workforce development at ACPO, as well as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: "in general police forces are not short of talent. In fact a bigger challenge is dealing with ambitious staff frustrated by the lack of promotion opportunities."
An overhaul of police recruitment rules will allow access "to the best pool of talent and "attract the brightest", the Policing Minister said in a written statement.
The current rules mean that all officers must enter at constable rank and do two years on the beat.
The changes could see military officers and business leaders recruited at superintendent level.
Damian Green said the shake-up could introduce "fresh thinking" into the police from other sectors.
The Policing Minister Damian Green has unveiled an overhaul of recruitment rules, which will allow new starters to join police forces at superintendent level.
He also revealed plans for a scheme to fast track candidates to become inspectors, and foreign police chiefs will be able to run British forces for the first time.
The recommendations that the Home Secretary is expected to bring forward are based on a wide-ranging review of police pay and conditions by former rail regulator Tom Winsor.
His final report was published last March, and also included proposals for pay rises for high-performing officers, and compulsory annual fitness tests for all officers.
His ideas on recruitment include allowing foreign police chiefs to run forces here, a fast track scheme to rise from civilian to inspector in three years, and direct entry at superintendent level for senior people from other professions.
It would mean military officers and business leaders could be recruited into senior posts.
Mr Winsor has previously said he wanted to end the idea of policing as an intellectually undemanding occupation - and that the "brightest and best" applicants with skills "distinctly above those of factory workers" were needed.
As part of reforms to police recruitment rules being unveiled today, the Home Secretary is expected to announce that candidates from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among others, will be able to front up forces in England and Wales.
Current legislation prevented US "supercop" Bill Bratton, former head of the New York police, applying to take charge of the Metropolitan Police in 2011.
Mr Bratton gained a reputation for introducing bold measures to reduce crime, heading police departments in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.
In his first two years at the helm of New York Police Department, reports of serious crime dropped 27%.
But Mrs May dashed any chances of him becoming Britain's top police officer when she underlined the importance of the Scotland Yard commissioner being a British citizen for national security reasons.
The Home Secretary is expected to unveil a radical shake-up of police recruitment rules today, which will include allowing new starters to skip the compulsory two years on the beat and foreign police chiefs to run British forces for the first time.
Under current rules, all police must enter at constable rank but the proposals to be unveiled by Theresa May later are understood to include direct entry into the police at superintendent level.
The overhaul is part of a package of reforms that were drawn up by ex-rail regulator Tom Winsor in the most wide-ranging review of police pay and conditions in more than 30 years.
Under his proposals, "exceptional" applicants would have the chance to rise from civilian to inspector in just three years.