Chief constable sackings ‘need better scrutiny’, say MPs

22 Jul 13
It is too easy for elected police and crime commissioners to remove chief constables from office, MPs warned today as they called for better scrutiny of the process

The Home Affairs committee issued a short report reviewing clashes between three of the new commissioners and incumbent chief constables in Avon and Somerset, Lincolnshire and Gwent. 

It found that checks and balances on police commissioners were weak and it was ‘very easy’ for chief constables to be removed.

‘The statutory process provides little safeguard, since there is nobody – not the police and crime panel, not the Inspectorate of Constabulary, not even the home secretary herself – who can overrule a commissioner who has set his face to dismissing a chief constable,’ the report stated.

It added that there was scope for a commissioner to cause ‘serious damage’ to a chief constable’s reputation and, by extension, the reputation and morale of the force.

The committee concluded that it was right that commissioners have the initiative in removing a chief constable but police and crime panels needed to fully exercise their powers of scrutiny to determine whether the decision taken was justified.

Committee chair Keith Vaz said: ‘It is worrying that police and crime commissioners seem able to sidestep the statutory process for dismissing a chief constable.

‘Police and crime panels should make more active use of their powers to scrutinise decisions such as this. We will be returning to this area when we carry out our next major inquiry into police and crime commissioners, towards the end of this year.’

Commenting on the report, Sir Huge Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said operational independence was essential to the British model of policing.

He said: ‘Police chiefs have to be able to make important operational decisions without concerns that the decision could prove unpopular and they could lose their job as a result.’

Orde added that, while some disagreements between chief constables and commissioners had been well publicised, ‘the evidence to date is that most relationships are constructive and professional’.


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