1. ITV Report

PSNI chief constable job interview questions revealed

Policing Board Chair Anne Connolly welcomes Chief Constable Simon Byrne to the Policing Board on his first day in office. Credit: Press Eye

Applicants for the role of PSNI chief constable were quizzed about integrity, impartiality and their ability to take ownership.

The interview questions for Northern Ireland’s top policing job have been revealed in a Freedom of Information request by UTV.

Four candidates were on the shortlist for the £207,489-per-year post.

In the end it went to the former Cheshire Police chief Simon Byrne, who stepped into the role at the beginning of this month.

Simon Byrne emerged as the successful candidate. Credit: Pacemaker

The interview process took place over two days in May, at the Policing Board headquarters in Belfast, with each interview lasting around an hour and consisting of two parts.

First, the candidates were given 30 minutes to put together a 10 minute presentation outlining their vision for the future of the PSNI.

They were asked what they see as the key challenges they will face, and how they plan to overcome them.

Candidates were being assessed on their ability to “deliver, support and inspire”.

Candidates gave their presentations using a flip board. Credit: UTV

They were then asked further questions targeting core competencies required for the post of chief constable.

Candidates were given around seven or eight minutes for each answer.

  • ‘Interview Area 1 - Emotionally aware.’

Candidates were asked: “Focusing on your personal values and leadership style, tell me about a time when your approach to leadership has transformed service delivery and improved organisational performance?”

They were also asked: “How will you personally deal with the different organisational issues, competing operational demands as well as constant political and public scrutiny, accountability and regular criticism?”

  • ‘Interview Area 2 - Collaborative.’

Candidates were asked: “As chief constable of the PSNI, how would you work with the board to make sure that our vision, purpose and priorities are achieved?”

They were also asked:“Please describe, as a chief officer, how you have worked with strategic partners to find efficiencies to deliver a better public service.”

  • ‘Interview Area 3 - Integrity.’

Candidates were asked: “Please tell me about a time when you have intervened in a situation where you felt that an individual was not acting in line with the values, ethics and professional standards of the police service.”

They were also asked: “What does integrity mean to you personally and as the chief constable, how would you embed ethical and professional standards across the PSNI?”

  • ‘Interview Area 4 - Take ownership.’

Candidates were asked: “Please describe what you understand by community policing and what you have done as a chief officer to ensure that staff and all communities are clear about what it means.”

They were also asked: “With reducing funds, increased complexity of crime and contrasting public expectations, as chief constable of the PSNI, how would you ensure the effective use of public spending to maximise value for money?”

  • ‘Interview Area 5 - Impartiality.’

Candidates were asked: “As a chief officer, please tell me what you have done to make sure the organisation is representative of all the communities it serves.”

They were also asked:“As the chief constable of the PSNI, how would you engender a service culture of impartiality across the organisation?”

  • ‘Interview Area 6 - Innovative and open-minded.’

Candidates were asked: “As the chief constable of the PSNI, how would you lead and inspire your people to continue to find efficiencies and transform given the periods of change they have been through already?”

They were also asked: “Please tell me, as a chief officer, how you have developed a culture of continual improvement?”

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The questions were asked by members of the Policing Board, the body which scrutinises police in Northern Ireland.

The selection panel was made up of seven members, including MLAs from across the parties and independent members - they were: John Blair MLA, Alan Chambers MLA, Linda Dillon MLA, Colm McKenna MLA, Wendy Osborne, Mervyn Storey MLA and board chair Anne Connolly.

The board took legal advice on keeping MLAs on the panel, following controversial comments by Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald.

Ms McDonald had voiced opposition to someone within the PSNI getting the role, leading to accusations she had compromised the recruitment process.

Simon Byrne attending his attestation ceremony. Credit: Pacemaker

An independent recruitment specialist was brought in to oversee the process.

Two days of training was provided to members of the interview panel - including practice interviews using senior police figures as ‘guinea pigs’.

During marking, a senior occupational psychologist could ‘dip sample’ notes taken by the panel members and ask them to justify the marks they allocate.

The panel members were also able to query each other’s scores, for example, if one member found themselves out of step with the others.

Ultimately the members were unanimous in their decision to appoint Simon Byrne as the new chief constable.

He stepped into the role on 1 June at the beginning of a five-year contract, succeeding the outgoing George Hamilton to become the fifth chief constable of the PSNI.

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