The most senior police officer in the county is to leave his post and Kent Police after nearly 39 years of service.
Chief Constable Alan Pughsley has announced he is to retire from the force to take up a prestigious national policing role.
Mr Pughsley, who has been a chief officer at the force since May 2009 and served as Chief Constable since January 2014, will leave his £200,000 a year role to join the National Police Chiefs’ Council Review into the Operational Productivity of Policing.
Announcing his plans last week, Mr Pughsley said that it had been ‘a real privilege’ to serve as Chief Constable at Kent Police and the decision to leave was ‘the most difficult’ of his life.
He added: “This is not a decision I have taken lightly. It has without question been the honour of my life to serve as the Chief Constable of what is widely acknowledged as the best force in the country.
“The review will shape policing across the entire country for the next generation and for this reason it was too important an opportunity to turn down. It affords me a real opportunity to bring many of the best policing practices developed by us here in Kent into the policing mainstream for the future.”
He continued: “Policing is a decent and honourable calling. I feel as strongly about that now as I did when I walked into the Hendon Police Training Centre 39 years ago.
“There is no job like it, and it is a real privilege to serve. It is not an easy job. But it is a job worth doing. It means something. There is no greater honour than to serve the public.
“The next Chief Constable will inherit an outstanding force. The leadership team of the force is incredibly strong, and the safety of the people of Kent is in very capable hands. I wish my Chief Officer colleagues and the new Chief Constable when they are appointed the very best.”
Mr Pughsley joined the Metropolitan Police in 1984 where he carried out a variety of roles, mainly as a detective developing his expertise in murder investigations, armed robbery, kidnap, firearms and drug-related crimes.
He joined Kent Police in May 2009 as Assistant Chief Constable for Specialist Operations before heading up the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, one of the largest in the country.
In March 2011 he was promoted to Deputy Chief Constable where he led the design and implementation of a new policing model and was responsible for quality performance delivery, as well as ensuring the force was run in an efficient and effective way.
In December 2013 he was promoted to Chief Constable of Kent Police, taking up the role in January 2014.
But his tenure of Kent’s top officer has not been without criticism.
In June 2020, Mr Pughsley was slammed for ‘taking the knee’ – a symbolic gesture often associated with the controversial Black Lives Matter movement.
He performed the gesture during a community event in Gravesend, saying at the time he wanted to show ‘solidarity’ with the black community, but the act was heavily criticised on social media and in the national press.
But Kent’s Police & Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, who will now have to appoint a new Chief Constable, said Mr Pughsley had been ‘one of the outstanding leaders in policing’ since joining the Force in 2009.
He added: “In that time, we have seen significant changes within policing, and he has dealt with every challenge with the utmost professionalism, and with a focus on looking after the great police officers, staff and volunteers who work for Kent Police.
“It has been a privilege to work alongside him during the past six years, during which we have worked together to make our neighbourhoods safer, protect vulnerable people from harm and support victims of crime. The turnaround in police officer numbers, the improvements in performance and the support he has given his people are lasting legacies he leaves Kent Police with.
“He now moves on to a prestigious role nationally which will be incredibly influential. Of course, I am disappointed to see him go. But I wish him well in his future endeavours.”
“On behalf of the public of Kent, I thank him for over 38 years of service to our county and our country,” Mr Scott said.
And Home Secretary Priti Patel also commented on the chief Constable’s retirement, saying: “With nine years under his belt as Chief Constable of Kent Police, Alan has shown outstanding leadership and tenacity and has a track record of delivery across nearly four decades in policing of which he should be very proud.
“Both as a Chief Constable and as the NPCC’s lead for crime operations, he has maintained a relentless focus on protecting the public.
“He will now bring his wealth of experience and his traditional no-nonsense approach to the NPCC’s review into the Operational Productivity of Policing, which will help ensure that the public receive the quality of policing they deserve from our significant investment.”
Deputy Chief Constable Tim Smith will become Temporary Chief Constable on October 3. A process to find Kent’s next Chief Constable will be announced by Matthew Scott in due course.
Police launch its own campaign to counter poaching by the Met
Kent Police has launched a campaign to try to stop its officers being poached by the Metropolitan Police.
‘Keep it Kent’ has been launched after the force said around 70 officers have recently expressed an interest in leaving the force to take up the Met’s offer of a £5,000 joining bonus.
As the Times reported earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioners, including Kent’s Matthew Scott, have hit out at the Met’s recruitment tactics launched earlier this year, which they say is leading to the Met poaching staff from Kent.
The London force is trying to recruit 4,000 officers by March 2023.
Kent’s Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said the numbers of officers wanting to transfer to the Met was now ‘exceptional’.
Mr Pughsley said that on average about 20 officers transferred out of the force with another 15 transferring to Kent Police each year.
He said: “Officers do move around police forces, but this number is exceptional. I’m losing experienced officers.”
In an effort to retain officers, Kent Police is increasing the South East living allowance from £2,500 to £3,000 from September 1, Mr Pughsley said.
“We’ve [also] set up a new forum where officers can ask for [job] swaps around the county that may suit them.”
He added: “Whether it be one-to-ones or group sessions, we’re speaking to all the officers just to make sure there’s nothing more we can do to keep them.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said Sadiq Khan made ‘no apology’ for the Met in recruiting and retaining the talented and experienced officers.
“The cost-of-living crisis is affecting all of our hard-working and dedicated police officers as they workday and night to keep us all safe and the Mayor agrees they should be appropriately rewarded,” he said.
But Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “We don’t defend the Met in any way, shape or form.
“The thought that you can give someone a ‘bung’ or whatever you want to call it, for them to do a job which, by nature, is not for the money – we’re paid derisory amounts by comparison to others – is just quite absurd.”