Commissioner Alan Hardwick, Independent (Lincolnshire Force Area), has been forced to accept the conclusions of a report he himself commissioned into allegations made against Temporary Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes.
In another misstep for Commissioner Hardwick a report, by the widely respected Chief Constable of Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy, has declared that allegations against Chief Constable Rhodes as “unsubstantiated”.
Chief Constable Rhodes was suspended over his involvement in a dispute where he was accused of helping a former employee at West Yorkshire Police pursue a claim of racial discrimination which he knew to be contrived.
The report concluded there was no evidence to suggest that Neil Rhodes acted improperly in his role as a Chief Police Officers Staff Association “friend” to the employee. In the report Sir Peter said he had ‘complete confidence’ Chief Constable Rhodes acted ‘from the best of motives’ to try and ‘achieve a reasonable compromise’ He added:
“The investigation team conclude that Mr Rhodes did not exceed the intended boundaries or scope of a CPOSA friend as he properly understood them.”
The report accepted there might have been a conflict of interest in some areas but also suggested more clarity is needed nationally, on the role of CPOSA friends.
“I had to take on a serious complaint that was made to me and the way I went around that, I believe, was the right way. I couldn’t ignore it.
“I remain troubled by the nature of the allegation and that it has not been possible for the investigating officer to determine exactly what happened in a private conversation between two highly regarded and credible professionals.”
Commissioner Hardwick said the suspension had never been a personal issue and a judicial review had cost him £37,500, alone – questions are still to be answered about the cost to taxpayers about this sorry affair. Back in March Mr. Justice Stuart-Smith ruled that the Commissioner’s decision was ‘irrational’ and ‘perverse’, determining that the Chief Constable’s suspension was therefore unlawful. The judicial intervention was sparked when the Independent Police Complaints Commission were approach by Commissioner Hardwick to investigate and they determined that there was insufficient evidence for them to conduct an investigation.
Following publication of Sir Peter’s report, in a statement, Mr Rhodes said:
“I have sought over the last six months to maintain a dignified silence, safe in the knowledge that I knew there was never any substance in the spurious allegation.
“The past few months have been unusually challenging. Following the judicial review decision, the commissioner and I resolved that we must draw a line beneath this matter, for the good of Lincolnshire, and demonstrate we could work together productively and positively.”
Commissioner Hardwick had been Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner for just three months when he took the decision to suspend Neil Rhodes. The matter has attracted critics at Westminster, with the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz MP, describing the way the chief constable’s suspension was handled as a ‘sorry state of affairs’. There have also been calls for Commisioner Hardwick to resign, amongst these local West Lindsey District Councillor, Cllr. Giles McNeill, Conservative (Nettleham Ward), who said:
“Commissioner Hardwick has once again been found wanting. First we had the refusal of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the matter then the Judge’s ruling and now the investigation that he set up himself has found that the allegations were unsubstantiated.
“It is hardly a surprise then that people are calling for the TV anchorman-come-Police Commissioner to resign. He has demonstrated again, clearly that he is not up to the job.
It is understood that Chief Constable Rhodes intends to apply for the post of permanent chief constable when it is advertised.