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Cleveland's search for new chief constable is unsuccessful

Cleveland admits 'setback' in Chief Constable search after failing to find suitable candidates, despite offering a 'golden hello' deal.
Published - 16/11/2021 By - Chris Smith

Problems at Cleveland are continuing to mount after a panel was unable to find someone capable of being its new Chief Constable.

The force and its Police and Crime Commissioner will now make temporary arrangements to replace Richard Lewis who is moving back to Dyfed Powys as chief.

After two days of interviews involving 26 people in three different panels, PCC Steve Turner said no-one had been judged suitable for the £164,904-a-year job.

He also took the unusual step of revealing who was on the interview panel. They included Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly - the Deputy Chief Executive of the College of Policing - and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe.

PCC Turner said in a statement: “At the end of the two-day assessment process, the appointment panel unanimously agreed with my decision that none of the candidates were suitable for the position of Chief Constable in Cleveland at this time.”

He added: “This is a setback I would prefer we didn’t face, however we will now set about considering alternative options to fill the role of Chief Constable."

It came despite the decision by Mr Turner to boost the salary from 149,913 with a discretionary payment in the hopes of attracting top candidates.

The decision will raise concerns for both the force and the top tier of policing.

Cleveland remains under pressure after being judged to be a failing force by HMIC. Richard Lewis has been credited with turning the force around but his departure has raised doubts about whether improvements will continue.

The next Chief will be the seventh in a decade.

Problems for the force are significant: the IOPC today released the police complaints figures for 2020/21. Cleveland had the highest number of complaints per 1,000 employees, at 805.

And as part of the national Operation Sceptre initiative, the force revealed it has the second-highest knife crime rate in the country.

The lack of a Chief also adds to the problems facing embattled Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner who is now under an investigation being overseen by the Independent Office for Police Conduct for a historic allegation of sexual assault.

But the issues are not just to do with Cleveland. The summer saw a spate of retirements by Chief Constables which left forces scrabbling to appoint.

The limited pool of potential candidates was highlighted by Norfolk where the PCC resorted to inviting people on the latest Strategic Command Course to apply to be the successor to CC Simon Bailey.

Norfolk has today announced T/CC Paul Sanford as the preferred candidate.

HM Inspectorate last year challenged forces over succession planning and their ability to recruit. Panels were criticised for regularly opting for “a safe pair of hands”. HM Inspector Matt Parr warned forces were too often choosing candidates who were already with their own forces.

Mr Turner admitted he will now have to start again.

He said: “Cleveland is not an easy place to police, and therefore we need an exceptional Chief Constable who has the extensive skills and experience to handle the significant challenges the force faces.

“On behalf of our three panels, I thank the candidates we interviewed for their participation and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.”

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