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Police panel request PCC apology over Chief Constable suspension

The Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel has requested Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick to formally apologise over the “unnecessary” suspension of the Chief Constable last year.

The panel also approved PCC Hardwick’s request to increase the police council tax precept by 1.99%, avoiding the 2% increase which would trigger a public referendum.

The panel accepted its task group report’s findings and recommendations into the PCC’s actions to suspend the Chief Constable in February 2013.

Lincolnshire PCC Alan Hardwick suspended the then-temporary Chief Constable Neil Rhodes over allegations of misconduct, with a judicial review, legal advice and report commissioning costing more than £165,000.

However, further investigation into the allegation cleared Chief Constable Rhodes of any misconduct, and a report by the panel’s task group said it is “unclear from the decision record and accompanying legal advice, why the PCC felt the need to suspend TCC Rhodes from duty”.

Since, the PCC and Chief Constable’s working relationship has improved, the report said — with Neil Rhodes becoming the new Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police late last year after having the temporary role since 2012, when Richard Crompton retired.

The panel has chosen to formally accept the task group’s report, which also reviewed what lessons can be learned from the decision and suspension.

It additionally requested that PCC Hardwick writes a formal apology to the Chief Constable over the dealing of the allegations and the suspension actions.

On Friday, PCC Hardwick was not available to comment.

Chairman of the Police and Crime Panel, Norman Norris, said: “The Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel members debated the proposed increase in Council Tax with the Commissioner at length, with a particular focus on ensuring value for money for the people of Lincolnshire.

The Commissioner was clear that the Force faces significant budget pressures as a result of reduced Government funding and other cost pressures and in order to ensure a continued high standard of policing in Lincolnshire going forward the increase is necessary. The Crime Panel supported the Commissioner’s proposed 1.99% increase – around 7p a week for homes.

“Police and Crime Panels have a vital role to play in both holding the Commissioner to account for his actions and supporting him in his duties. In Lincolnshire we take that role very seriously.

“I’d like to thank the members of the task group for their hard work over recent months in pulling together this detailed, informative and carefully written report.

“It is clear that lessons need to be learned from what happened in Lincolnshire and we hope the recommendations we have today endorsed are implemented in full by the organisations and individuals concerned.”

Read the full report →

Report recommendations

Recommendations to the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner:

  • Seek expert legal advice regarding the viability of major decisions pre decision
  • Carry out thorough risk assessments assessing corporate, strategic, legal, financial and reputational risks (and the implications for employment law as well as Police Regulations).
  • Seek professional advice surrounding media and press releases when an investigation of a senior officer is to be undertaken.
  • Put in place better record keeping/note taking in respect of his decisions, particularly around legal decisions and documentation – by way for example of checklists and decision logs.
  • Implement local HR policies and procedures to follow and take appropriate HR advice when suspending a senior officer.
  • Implement a Communications Strategy, prioritise internal communications and develop as required Communication Plans to deal with key events.
  • Improve communications with the Panel and establish a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the exchange of information.

Recommendations to the Chief Constable/Association of Chief Police Officers:

  • Agree a best practice procedure for notifying PCC’s when acting as a “CPOSA friend”.
  • Chief Officers when acting as CPOSA friends should be advised to formally record telephone conversations to save future misunderstandings.

Recommendations to the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel:

  • Establish a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the exchange of information with the PCC’s office.
  • Develop the already positive and professional working relationship with the PCC and his staff through training and briefings.

Recommendations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission:

  • Request that PCC’s submit conduct issues regarding Chief Constables to the IPCC in writing and that all advice to PCC’s from IPCC Commissioners is also provided in writing.
  • Assure themselves that their decision making process is robust and consistent.

Recommendations to the Home Office:

  • Create an induction course for new PCC’s with a focus on Police Regulations and employment law/human rights legislation.
  • Strengthen the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to give sub-groups of Panels the power to call any persons who in their view could assist Panels to give evidence and provide information, to facilitate proper scrutiny.
  • Utilise the professional expertise of HMIC and require them to be involved in the suspension review process providing the PCC, Chief Constable and Police and Crime Panel with a professional view on the suspension of a Chief Constable before and during the suspension period.