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Merger calls as latest chief quits ?merry-go-round? force

Sajid Javid asked to sort out ?continued existence? of many faces of Cleveland
Published - 22/01/2019 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

The Home Secretary has been asked to determine the future of a force that has seen the shock exit of a fifth chief in just six years.

The backdraft from yesterday’s announcement of Mike Veale’s swift departure after nine months at the helm of Cleveland Police has brought into question a continued existence “in its current form”.

One of the area’s MPs plus a local mayor want Sajid Javid to consider merging Cleveland – potentially with neighbouring constabularies Durham or North Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, it has emerged CC Veale’s decision to quit “with immediate effect”, after complaints of serious misconduct had been referred to the watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct, may be related to allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

It has been reported the claims were passed to under-fire police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger by two female officers before Christmas.

Renewed calls have been made for a “reckless and incompetent” Mr Coppinger, a fulsome supporter of the former chief constable whose original appointment was marred with controversy as local politicians called for CC Veale to be blocked from taking the role because of his involvement in the contentious inquiry into the former Prime Minister Sir Ted Heath, to stand down immediately.

The IOPC refused to be drawn into the debate today, informing Police Oracle it could not comment on any of the claims of inappropriate behaviour as, at this stage, the watchdog is only dealing with a referral.

It stated: “We can confirm that we have recently received a referral from Cleveland’s police and crime commissioner concerning the conduct of Chief Constable Mike Veale. We are assessing the information we have received to decide what further action is required.”

With the referral only being delivered late last week, any possible subsequent investigation would not be countenanced for a least a fortnight, Police Oracle is led to believe.

CC Veale handed in his resignation on Friday after "serious" allegations about his behaviour surfaced – less than 24 hours after pulling out from a keynote speech at the National Missing Persons conference at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium.

The PCC moved quickly to steady the Cleveland ship that has seen many coming and goings in recent years, triggered by the sacking of Sean Price for misconduct in 2012 – bringing in Lee Freeman as interim chief constable from Humberside.

But the temporary appointment has failed to stop the clamour for a new direction for the Cleveland force.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke – “disappointed” the force was moving on to his third chief in 18 months – called for a “root and branch” review of the force’s future raison d’etre with “all options on the table”.

He added: “These should include whether our area would be better served were the Cleveland force to be merged with neighbouring forces Durham and/or North Yorkshire.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, a harsh critic from the outset of CC Veale’s appointment to Cleveland, said the chief constable merry-go-round should “come to an end” – and the PCC “must resign” as well.

He added: "This is why I refused to get involved in the appointment process only a small number of months ago.”

He said Mr Coppinger is "incapable of carrying out the role that he holds".,

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