THE POLICE chief responsible for beat bobbies has only made 15 arrests in her three year career in uniform.

Wiltshire Police’s new assistant chief constable, Maggie Blyth, joined Hampshire Constabulary in 2016 via a direct entry scheme that saw her sped into a superintendent job, overseeing cops across Portsmouth.

Now, she’s responsible for community policing and specialist operations, including armed response officers and dog units, across Wiltshire.

Asst Ch Const Blyth, who used to lead major child safeguarding probes around the south coast and Thames Valley, told the Adver she had only made around 10 to 15 arrests – all in the six month period as she accelerated from constable to inspector on the high-flyer career switch programme.

Direct entry schemes, run by the College of Policing and which speed graduates and career changers into inspector or superintendent roles, have been unpopular with the Police Federation, the organisation that represents rank-and-file officers. Earlier this year, the Met Police and College of Policing pulled a recruitment advertisement for one such scheme, after a suggestion the direct entry recruits could avoid “starting from the bottom” drew criticism from serving cops.

However, Insp Mark Andrews of Wiltshire Police Federation said the association would wait and see how Ms Blyth performed.

“Although we have concerns about direct entry schemes, and we feel inspectors and superintendents don’t have that rounded career that we have from those who have been PCs, we do recognise those people have particular skills they can bring to the police,” he said.

Ms Blyth was highly regarded by her former colleagues at Hampshire Constabulary, Insp Andrews added: “Policing isn’t just about arresting people. It’s about working with partners. It’s about everybody taking responsibility for community safety. I believe Maggie brings a lot to that role.”

Speaking to the Adver, Ms Blyth said: “I understand why police officers might feel sceptical about a new entry route into policing.”

But she said the 17 direct entry superintendents made up a small part of police forces nationally.

“You need people with different experiences,” she added. What she brought was a strong background in safeguarding and public protection, Ms Blyth said.

Asked about her ambition for the role, she said: “I want to keep our communities as safe as they can be and protect the most vulnerable.”

New assistant chief constable's focus is on helping the vulnerable

Protecting society’s most vulnerable is the thread running through new top cop Maggie Blyth’s career.

Prior to joining Hampshire Constabulary in 2016 as a direct entry superintendent, she was chairman of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board.

In that role she probed police and council failings that could have brought a gang of seven men responsible for abusing girls in Oxford. Her 2015 report suggested as many as 373 children in the county could have been targeted for sex by predatory gangs over the previous 16 years.

As a safeguarding chief she came into close contact with frontline police officers. It was that that convinced her to make the jump.

Ms Blyth said: “I wanted to become a police officer because I wanted to make a difference in our communities.

“I was very attracted by the talent within the police. Some of the best professionals I had worked with were frontline police officers.”

The issues in Wiltshire, like county lines drug gangs, child exploitation and drug-related crimes, were similar to those she faced as policing commander for Portsmouth.

She added: “The biggest challenge is the changing demand. The sorts of calls coming into the police are different.

“We need to make sure we’ve got enough [police officers] at the right place and at the right time.

“We have to respond to all our 999 and 101 calls, but we also need to have time for our officers to get behind some of the more wicked problems in our communities.”

She said she would be regularly patrolling with her new officers.