Font Size: A A A

Home > Reviews > Police Chiefs in the UK

Police Chiefs in the UK

Author Mark Roycroft

ISBN No 978-3-319-44104-7

Review date 24/06/2019

No of pages 224

Publisher Palgrave

Publisher URL

Year of publication 18/05/2017


Police Chiefs in the UK: Politicians, HR Managers or Cops? By Mark Roycroft, published 2016 by Palgrave. Hardcover, 224 pages, £66.99, ISBN 978-3-319-44104-7

Our Review


£ 66.99

Police Chiefs in the UK: Politicians, HR Managers or Cops? By Mark Roycroft, published 2016 by Palgrave. Hardcover, 224 pages, £66.99, ISBN 978-3-319-44104-7. Visit

Police are facing new demands – and have to balance new crimes, such as cyber-crime and human trafficking, besides ‘historical issues’ such as investigating allegations of sexual abuse. Meanwhile, the backdrop is of austerity, and ‘uncertain funding arrangements’. As for structure, the elected police and crime commissioners have come in, and the National Crime Agency (NCA), and the College of Policing, and the NPCC has replaced ACPO. The role of a chief constable has changed, and the world they operate in. such is the gist of a new book Police Chiefs in the UK. The sub-title has a question mark after it – ‘politicians, HR managers or cops’ which implies that the police chiefs are now all three, or ought to be. We can query the author Mark Roycroft when he says there’s an absence of public debate about all these changes – isn’t that the whole point of having elections for PCCs – but he makes a sounder point when he points to ‘a discrepancy in the level of scrutiny that Chiefs faced compared to PCCs’.

The strength of Roycroft’s book is that he is not making guesses or guesstimates; if we query his points, he has at least based them on what his interviewees, police chief constables and PCCs – have told him. For example we can say to his point that ‘the debates on collaboration [between police forces], governance and accountability were driven by political agendas and economics as much as reasoned discussion of the best means to tackle the issues’; wasn’t it ever thus? Indeed Roycroft goes on to make the point that in Scotland, which merged its police forces into one, and brought some economies of scale, there’s more to any decision than finances – the public have to feel happy about what they are, after all, paying and voting for. And isn’t it the same – doesn’t politics get in the way - for the National Health Service, and the armed forces, and state schooling? Comparing the state of police leadership, and use of IT, with those other fields would have been worthwhile to widen Roycroft’s analysis by the way. But to repeat, the strength of the book is in the interviews; Roycroft is giving us what his interviewees are telling him. Police have become by default ‘the primary social agency’ and we may be seeing a new model of policing, that takes in besides crime, cyber, and public protection – such as, human trafficking and mental health.

We can quibble and say that the book reads at times too much as if it’s written as an academic essay – a former senior police detective, the author is now a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of East London - rather than for a general reader. But that is only a quibble because the author has plainly put in the hard work of actually speaking to present and retired chiefs and PCCs – some 89 in all – and that spade work and the findings deserve the widest audience. Policing is after all done by people, and as the author points out at the very end, 80 per cent of the police budget goes on staff costs.

New crime types, as the author concludes, such as cyber and child sexual exploitation ‘require a skilled workforce and well-resourced units’, that should be on a regional or national level rather than the 43 county and metropolitan forces. But in doing that those units – also the regional crime units – should connect with local, neighbourhood police teams.

Another quibble is that the book does not have the longest index ever. That makes it harder for a reader to dip in – such as the private security person wanting to see what the book, what the PCCs and chiefs, have to say about cyber; or fraud; or counter-terrorism. Other quibbles, and perhaps the ones already aired, are at best debatable; you could argue that more could be said about the 2011 riots for instance; but life and policing have moved on – indeed, the fact that terms for chiefs are not as long as they were is a factor worth dwelling on, in terms of occupational culture. As one chief told Roycroft, the police are only as good as the last riot, for instance in how they handle the social media around the physical riot (or legitimate protest). At least the author is savvy and sceptical enough to write only that crime has ‘ostensibly’ fallen in the UK, given that fraud, mostly online, is so under-reported. Roycroft quotes one chief seemingly happy to ‘use the private sector’ rather than warranted officers as cyber specialists. That said, some chiefs called for IT companies to be more open about and give more assistance with crime over the internet. While Roycroft seemed to take at face value claims that the UK and the western world in general is becoming in general less violent, he did raise the phrase ‘hidden harm’, suggesting that harrowing crime is happening, but not on the surface. For instance, police chiefs were concerned at the links between organised crime and terrorists: “The sale of firearms and fake passports along with the us of smuggling routes were all of concerns to chiefs.” Police do have successes – such as the security at London 2012, and big set-piece events such as NATO summits; but the threat of marauding armed terrorists – particularly in rural areas – was aired by the interviewees.

In sum, the book covers a heck of a lot of ground, including the gossipy personal (pay) and the intriguing (whether people make it to the top by accident, or a too-smooth conveyor belt of selection). Precisely because the author evidently gathered so much material, it would have been worthwhile to have presented a case study; and if that would have run the risk of identifying someone, perhaps a composite would have been possible; just something as a change from the topic-based chapters. Or an extra chapter on how others, such as lower ranks (and Roycroft, a 30-year police man, rose as high as acting superintendent), view their superiors. But be assured that this book will be and should be mined for its contents.

About the author

Mark Roycroft is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of East London. He completed 30 years of police service, reaching the rank of Acting Superintendent at Colindale Police Station. As a Detective Chief Inspector, Mark had sole responsibility for running the main CID office.