Bernard Hogan-Howe, Scotland Yard chief, has said he would like to see 10 per cent of his senior officers recruited from outside the police force – endorsing proposals that are deeply unpopular with rank and file officers.

Speaking at a conference on police leadership on Monday, the newly knighted Metropolitan Police commissioner weighed in behind the idea, which has been suggested as part of a swathe of government reforms to police pay and practices.

“The time has come to consider and implement lateral entry,” Sir Bernard told delegates.

Direct entry to police forces has been championed by many, including the prime minister, in an effort to improve the quality of leadership after the phone-hacking scandal, the “plebgate” row between police and cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, and revelations about a policing cover-up during the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

Tom Winsor, appointed in July as the first civilian Chief Inspector of Constabulary, told the conference that bringing in non-police officers would “enrich” the service. “Direct entry to the police has the potential materially to change the face of modern British policing for the better,” Mr Winsor said.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, commented that he would not like to see people on “work experience” in charge of a volatile policing environment such as in Northern Ireland, where he used to work.

But Mr Winsor immediately hit back that some of the most damaging policing decisions in the Hillsborough disaster had been made by an experienced police detective who had no training in public order.

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