The 'Gravy Beat'

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock, the man in charge of Operation Blunt - the Metropolitan Police's effort to tackle knife crime - and one of the country's top police man is to retire from the MET in April. After 30 years as an officer he leaves the force to take up a job with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

As the Times reports today, Mr Hitchcock is likely to significantly increase his earnings by retiring though, being able to collect his £80,000 officers' pension from the MET, while also receiving an annual salary of around £120,000 for his new position at the NPIA.

Police Officers who joined the force prior to 2006 qualify for a full pension after 30 years of service. Under current arrangements, officers are allowed to collect pay and full pension if they retire from one of the Home Office forces and join an force or agency that falls outside the department; the NPIA is a quango of the Home Office, but theoretically falls outside it.

Mr Hitchcock joins a small group of senior officers able to draw down large pensions and enormous salaries, while still relatively young - Mr Hitchcock is only 49. The practice is engendering growing resentment among rank and file officers. Peter Smyth of Metropolitan Police Federation said "I'm not sure this is the best use of public money", and a senior officer told the Times that "pensions are for your retirement". 

No-one can deny that Mr Hitchcock has done his service, nor that he is not qualified for his new position; he hold two masters degrees, an honours degree and a diploma, all in criminal and management related subjects. The NPIA to which he goes to work with exists to 'improve the delivery of policing'. 

But quite aside from the actual value added by the NIPA (which is questionable), this practice does little to reassure taxpayers that their money is being well-spent. A £200,000 a year remuneration package for Mr Hitchcock is incredibly generous, and while we should no doubt reward those who serve in the police, such extravagance is unwarranted. Pensions are supposed to support people when they have largely stopped working, not be paid out as a hefty pay supplement. 

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