A police officer who has been on the force for just three years, has been promoted to one of the most senior ranks – despite having only arrested between 10 to 15 people during her career.
Maggie Blyth has just started work as assistant chief constable with Wiltshire Police, in charge of specialist operations, armed response and dog units across the entire force.
But rank and file officers have expressed concern over the appointment after it emerged that she only began her policing career in 2016 as part of the fast track direct entry scheme.
Ms Blyth, who used to chair the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, joined Hampshire Constabulary in 2016 and spent just six months on the beat before being promoted to Inspector and then Superintendent.
The direct entry programme, which was launched in 2014, allows people with the right skills and life experience to join the police at Superintendent level, rather than having to work their way up through the ranks.
It was intended to end the “closed shop culture” within policing and improve the diversity, skills and experiences of those running the modern service, with successful applicants starting on a salary of £62,000.
But the scheme has been criticised by more junior ranks, who feel senior officers should have served their time rather than being parachuted in to the top jobs.
Inspector Mark Andrews of Wiltshire Police Federation said the association would wait and see how Ms Blyth performed.
He said: “Although we have concerns about direct entry schemes, and we feel inspectors and superintendents don’t have that rounded career that we have from those who have been PCs, we do recognise those people have particular skills they can bring to the police.”
Ms Blyth, who is the first graduate of the direct entry scheme to be promoted to chief officer rank, said: “I wanted to become a police officer because I wanted to make a difference in our communities.
“I was very attracted by the talent within the police. Some of the best professionals I had worked with were frontline police officers.”
“I understand why police officers might feel sceptical about a new entry route into policing.”
But she said the 17 direct entry superintendents made up only a fraction of police force senior posts nationally, adding: “You need people with different experiences.”
“The biggest challenge is the changing demand. The sorts of calls coming into the police are different.
“We need to make sure we’ve got enough officers at the right place and at the right time.
“We have to respond to all our 999 and 101 calls, but we also need to have time for our officers to get behind some of the more wicked problems in our communities.”
In her previous role with the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, she led a probe into police and council failings that allowed a gang of men to abuse girls in Oxford.
She said she would be regularly patrolling with her new officers.