There is a public employer in Britain that pays staff based on how many years they have served, regardless of their role, how hard they work, or where in the country they live. That organisation is led by those who have spent their entire working life in the same career, and who all joined in the same way, within a few years of each other.
The qualifications for entry are low and, once through probation, that organisation cannot sack staff for poor performance. It also guarantees total job security for 30 years and allows staff to leave on a full pension in their early fifties. It even permits staff to have second jobs, and if they have been around long enough, provides a monthly subsidy for their mortgage. The organisation's pay structure was last reviewed in 1978.
That employer is the police. Today, an independent review of its long-term future is published. Led by Tom Winsor, a lawyer and former rail regulator, this is a once-in-a-generation chance to reform an outdated workforce, to ensure it is more flexible, fairly remunerated, better trained and more effectively led.
Essentially, Winsor has been wrestling with the same problems - such as career routes and performance-related pay - identified by Sir Patrick Sheehy 20 years ago. Should officers be paid the same in Durham as they are in Dorset for doing the same job, regardless of living costs? Should a police career have only one entry point for all applicants, regardless of experience, and hardly any forced exit points, regardless of performance? Should a cop working unsocial hours and risking injury on the front line advance in their career less quickly than an officer who prefers the office role and the nine to five?
Given the variety of policing roles, it is odd that careers are so inflexible. All officers must begin as constables on the beat. More women and graduates have joined in the past decade, but top graduate talent still does not regard policing as a professional career choice with good prospects, despite the unique benefits.
And it is the future leadership issue that is at the heart of Winsor's work. The Prime Minister said in response to phone hacking: "This crisis calls for us to stand back and take another, broader look at the whole culture of policing in this country, including the way it is led. At the moment, the police system is too closed." Because senior police ranks are not open to outside experience, the service has become culturally defensive and the leadership lacks self-confidence.
The chief constable role - employing thousands of personnel and spending hundreds of millions of pounds - needs dynamic leadership akin to a major corporation. But, as David Cameron rightly observed, in recent years there have been "too few, and arguably too similar, candidates for the top jobs". Years of Home Office interference and a lack of local accountability have turned chief officers into government managers - a role they are not fit for and mostly do not enjoy.
Too many of these chief officers gained promotion by means other than demonstrating real crime-fighting ability - there is a dearth of detectives at chief constable rank (they are usually too busy catching criminals to chase promotion). As chiefs looked up to Whitehall rather than out to communities, they ended up chasing targets and ignored low-level crime, presiding over what the Inspectorate of Constabulary dubbed a "retreat from the streets".
A number of changes are needed. The demands of modern policing require a more professional career structure. The core mission remains a simple one - the prevention of crime. But that task has grown much more complex as society has fragmented and become more vulnerable to threats from afar. The growing influence of technology and the law all necessitate sharper police skills.
And if officers are to be freed from bureaucracy and excessive audit, they need the training to feel empowered, so they can use their discretion and take risks. All this relies on having good leadership that inspires the troops and fosters innovation.
We need new routes into the service that allow the best graduates to become inspectors within two years, and opened-up recruitment for chief officers so the talent pool can be expanded to overseas applicants. There should be direct entry for people who have business acumen and who can deliver better value for money.
Chief officers can then be set free to be operational leaders, rewarded for fighting crime effectively. And we need a chief officer transfer market, so elected police commissioners can head-hunt the best crime fighters.
The police reform agenda cannot just be about structures. It must be about people. Without reform, the service will struggle to keep pace and will not get the best out of its most valuable asset - its people.
There is a lot of talent, grit and passion in the police, but we need more of it. Officers, staff and the public have much to gain and very little to lose from the evolution of policing from a rigid, blue-collar vocation to a flexible, white-collar profession.
Blair Gibbs is the head of crime and justice at the think tank Policy Exchange