THE new head of a police force who has stepped in to cover for its two suspended chiefs has vowed to lift the spirits of officers.
Jacqui Cheer – who led the investigation into the Suffolk Strangler – has taken on the role of temporary chief constable with Cleveland Police.
She says she is unsure how long she will be in the £133,000-a-year position as she awaits the results of a criminal probe that is currently underway into Chief Constable Sean Price and Deputy Chief Constable Derek Bonnard.
She admitted that a difficult task lies ahead due to the ongoing investigation and the force losing officers due to hefty financial cutbacks.
But during her first day on the job yesterday, Mrs Cheer issued a call to her staff to put aside those issues and carry on doing their “fantastic” work.
Mrs Cheer, 50, told the Mail: “There’s lots and lots happening in Cleveland, there’s the finances and the force is currently in the spotlight. That can be uncomfortable.
“But why do people join the police? They put themselves in danger and in confrontational situations, but do it because they can make a difference.
“We all have ups and downs and it can be tough. Hopefully with my skills I can lift some of that and absorb some of the burden.
“I’m asking people to deliver their best all the time, even when no-one’s looking.”
During her time with Suffolk Constabulary, she commanded Operation Sumac, the investigation into the murders of five young women by Steve Wright in the Ipswich area at the end of 2006.
She had joined Suffolk as assistant chief constable in 2006, having previously spent 22 years with Essex Police and then the Home Office Reform Unit, which saw her visit Middlesbrough in 2005.
Mrs Cheer, who is married to construction worker Paul, 49, was promoted to deputy chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary in November 2007.
Mrs Cheer, who will live in the area during her time with the force, said: “To some people it may seem odd to put yourself in this situation, but if you truly believe you can make a difference to the people of Cleveland you have to give it a go.
“I’m here because I want to do it and know that I can do a good job.”
Mr Price, Mr Bonnard and the former force solicitor Caroline Llewellyn were arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practice on August 3.
They were questioned as part of Operation Sacristy, an investigation into alleged corruption in Cleveland Police Authority (CPA) and have been bailed until April next year.
An investigation, which is now being led by Chief Constable Keith Bristow, of Warkwickshire Police, was announced in May into a number of people with current or past associations with the CPA.
CPA chairman Peter Race said there is “nothing but admiration across the whole authority” for the force’s management and officers despite the “difficulties” being faced.
He added: “I know that Mrs Cheer shares that commitment and that she wants to take forward the vision which has seen the transformation of the Cleveland Force, making us one of the most successful in the country in driving down crime and raising public confidence.”