Cleveland Police chief hits out at past leadership decisions and vows to address failures

Cleveland Police chief constable Mike Veale.
Cleveland Police chief constable Mike Veale.

A police chief says past leaders of Cleveland Police have 'brave officers down'.

Cleveland Police's Chief Constable Mike Veale has taken a rare step to speak out about the challenges facing the force and vowed to make changes.

Cleveland'd Poloice and crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger.

Cleveland'd Poloice and crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger.

It comes after the Mail reported that volunteers in the Foggy Furze area of Hartlepool said they have no option but to take to the streets in the middle of the night following cuts to police in the town.

Chief Constable Mike Veale said: "For Cleveland Police the past is not a foreign country; the past is a living breathing thing which continues to haunt us today. Past mistakes, failures of leadership and failures of moral courage, drain resources and take officers off our streets. Let’s not pretend that there have not been significant failures of leadership historically at Cleveland Police at the very highest level. These will not be repeated on my watch.

"One of the reasons I accepted the office of Chief Constable at Cleveland Police was to address these failures and it was the determination of Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger to do the same that convinced me it was the right move. We have a strong partnership and my leadership is immeasurable strengthened by the work instigated and passionately championed by the PCC, especially the whole system transformation of our professional standards department and world class Everyone Matters equality and diversity project.

"Every day of the week there are officers and staff out on our streets keeping people safe and protecting our communities by showing the utmost courage. Policing in the 21st Century is a risky business where criminals are more sophisticated, more resourceful and more dangerous than they ever have been before. Every day of the week that courage and tenacity results in dangerous criminals being locked up, vulnerable people being protected and members of the public helped in their greatest hour of need.

"Past leaders have let these brave officers down. They have failed to show the courage and tenacity required to support front line colleagues. Within a few months of my joining Cleveland Police as the Chief Constable I made it clear to all my staff that I want them to push the boundaries, be on the front foot, be in the face of criminals and be audacious in their approach. Those who say that the police service has had a culture of blame where risk aversion has been debilitating and impaired the trust and confidence of leadership in rank and file are right. This will not happen in my force.

"All of this is true, but we must also recognise that there are many complex issues which impact on how we serve our communities and that while simply crying ‘austerity’ is not good enough and no one in policing today can claim it isn’t a factor. Forces across the country including Cleveland are more efficient and more effective than ever before but despite this efficiency the service we are providing the public is nowhere near where it needs to be."

'Government cuts are too deep'

He added: "There are some that claim the funding formula is fair. How can it be fair when the most vulnerable, those most at risk, are penalised just because they live a particular town or community? How is that fair? All areas are not the same. All areas do not face the same problems.

"I would not be exhibiting the courage that my officers and staff deserve if I continue to say we have enough resources, if I continue with this commentary that things in policing are okay. They are not okay. The cuts created and caused by austerity are too deep and have gone on for too long.

"This is not just the view of one Chief Constable in isolation. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has said of Cleveland Police that our capacity to absorb further unexpected costs and pressures is limited. They also report that our future financial plans have little room for movement in police numbers and recognise that the force would need to stop providing a service to achieve future savings.

"We have brilliant people doing a brilliant job but we do not have enough of them and the facts speak for themselves. It is about time that trend was reversed so that we can protect our communities, protect the most vulnerable and protect everyday people who go about their business and protect them with courage, kindness and compassion.

"In all of this we must not forget that we are part of a proud heritage, a heritage stretching back further even than the formation of the modern police service. We have a responsibility to those that came before us to serve with pride, lead with conviction and embody the best characteristics of British policing; fair play, equality before the law and justice for all. By leading with courage, and I will lead with courage, we can ensure that we do more than simply avoid the mistakes of the past. We can, in this small corner of England, represent all that is best, all that is great, about policing."

The financial background

Mr Veale added: "Over the last eight years the Government Grant for policing and crime in Cleveland has been cut by £25.4m. We have moved from a budget of £148.5m to pay for policing, to £134.6m to pay for policing, community safety and victims and witnesses services. We therefore have £14m (or 10%) less in cash terms but more responsibilities.

"In addition to this, what we can buy with our money now is less than we would have been able to in 2010/11, because of the impact of inflation, pay awards and numerous government policies/decisions - such as National Insurance increases, the Apprenticeship Levy, unfunded pay awards, and a very significant risk in relation to employer’s contribution costs that are forecast to materialise in 2019/20.

"In real terms policing in Cleveland is £39m worse off in 2018/19 than it was in 2010/11.

"This has resulted in the loss of 500 police officers and 50 PCSOs since 2010, in the face of increasing demand from additional and complex crimes such as historical child sexual abuse and cybercrime."