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Search launched for new Kent Police chief after Ian Learmonth announces retirement

Former Kent Police chief constable Ian Learmonth
Former Kent Police chief constable Ian Learmonth

The search for a new chief constable to head Kent Police gets under way today after the announcement that Ian Learmonth is to retire.

Considered to be one of the biggest jobs in the police service, the appointment for a new chief will, for the first time, rest with Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes.

But the prospect of the job going to someone from outside the UK has been dashed.

Policing minister and Kent MP Damian Green recently announced plans to permit forces to appoint senior officer jobs to candidates from other countries, so long as they came from countries with similar criminal justice systems.

That idea had been welcomed by Ann Barnes when the idea was first floated in January.

She said: "I'm very open minded about that. The advantage is they would bring fresh ideas. I'm not saying it's the right idea, but I'm in favour of looking at any way of getting fresh blood here."

But plans to allow recruitment from abroad are not expected to become law until January - too late for the Kent job.

Would-be candidates will have until November 18 to apply.

That will be followed by a two-day selection process in December.

Kent Police chief constable Ian Learmonth and police commissioner Ann Barnes
Kent Police chief constable Ian Learmonth and police commissioner Ann Barnes

A spokesman for Ann Barnes said: "The commissioner wants a chief constable with the charisma and leadership to keep the force firmly embedded in the community it serves, whatever the financial pressures, and understands not just policing but the needs and aspirations of the people of Kent."

The job comes at a challenging time for all police forces, with the issue of trust in the headlines after the so-called "Plebgate" row.

In Kent, the force has been in the headlines after a report that criticised a culture of target chasing.

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And budget cuts have seen hundreds of jobs being axed, with the force expecting to lose 440 serving officers and 750 civilian staff by 2016.

Despite this, a high quality field of candidates is expected.

Of those who were shortlisted last time the appointment was made, two have since become chief constables elsewhere.

While the appointment will be the decision of Ann Barnes, it will not be ratified until just before Christmas when members of the Police and Crime Panel will hold a confirmation hearing.

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