Calls made for speedy police probe

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Sean White
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Sean White

A POLICE deputy has called for a probe into his chief constable to be done swiftly to keep public confidence high and stop costs spiralling.

Cleveland Police’s Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Sean White was walking the streets of Hartlepool yesterday to celebrate five years of neighbourhood policing in the town.

But despite crime falling and the successes of community officers, he admitted a cloud had been cast over the force after Chief Constable Sean Price was arrested along with his deputy Derek Bonnard and the former force solicitor Caroline Llewellyn on August 3.

And he told the Mail he did not know whether the investigation would run for months or years, but he hoped it would not be a lengthy and costly probe as the force faces 20 per cent budget cuts over the next four years.

He said: “It has been a very difficult time.

“History tells us this kind of investigation can go on for a number of months. We all want to reach an outcome at the earliest opportunity but there has to be a proper inquiry into the things that have been alleged.

“No-one wants to go back to where the force was seven years ago when it was performing badly and had financial difficulties.

“I have made it a priority of mine to keep the force in a buoyant place. I think if the situation can be wrapped up in a matter of months then it will be okay.

“We all just have to remain focused during that time.”

On the cost of the investigation, Temp Dep Chf Cons White added: “I would rather be spending this money out on the streets, but it is important that we hold people to account.

“But the money will not be taken from operational funds to resource the inquiry. The force has resources and access to other funds.

“There may be an application to the Home Office to fund the inquiry”.

Despite his optimistic view about the short term, he could not promise any sustained inquiry would not affect staff levels.

“You can never say never, but I can’t see the inquiry leading to job cuts,” he said.

“That wouldn’t be acceptable or palatable to anyone.”

Temp Dep Chf Cons White has remained in touch with those being investigated, and hopes both chief officers will return to their posts soon.

He added: “They will be welcomed back, absolutely. They have made it completely clear that they believe they are innocent and want to come back to work and they would be welcomed back to Cleveland Police.”

When asked whether they would be able to come back if the inquiry rolled on for years, he said: “It’s a judgement we would have to make at the time.

“Certainly the chief and the deputy have been instrumental in getting the force to where it is over the years.”

Those arrested face accusations of misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practice are expected to answer bail in October. No charges have been laid.

The arrests are linked to a probe into a number of people with current or past associations with Cleveland Police Authority.

Both Chf Cons Price and Deputy Chf Cons Bonnard have said they are confident they will be cleared.