Posted: Friday 21st August 2015
There is only one subject that I will talk about this week and that is the Chief Constable.
Nick Gargan let local people down and the communities he was there to protect. He also let police officers and staff down - the very people who he was appointed to lead. As the head of our police service he should have shown the highest standards of behaviour, instead he has shown flawed judgement and ill-advised behaviour, according to an experienced and impartial panel chaired by a barrister.
I was disappointed too that the disciplinary proceedings were not in public and argued that they should be as long as there were the appropriate protection for witnesses. There is a quote ‘sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,’ and I firmly believe that if proceedings were held in public it would have gone a long way to answer many people’s questions and given people greater confidence in the process. The law has now changed and all discipline cases within the police are held in public.
Although the process was held in private I was determined that it was not a secret hearing and this week I published as much as I could about the proceedings, including all the costs. Like many local people I also believe it is hard to justify the expense at a time when the organisation is desperately trying to make savings. I have also said many times that I am as frustrated as everyone, about the length of time that the disciplinary process has taken. However we cannot forget that I was faced with serious allegations from whistle-blowers about the Chief Constables’ behaviour, and it was absolutely right that these were looked into independently by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). At every step of the way I have diligently followed the regulations set by Parliament, to ensure the disciplinary process was carried out correctly and fairly, as local people would expect.
The final stage of the disciplinary process concluded on Wednesday when I held a hearing with the Chief Constable to determine his sanction. At the hearing I followed the recommendations of the misconduct panel and I issued Nick Gargan with eight final written warnings. The panel had forensically looked at all the evidence, heard from the defence and found Nick Gargan guilty of eight counts of misconduct.
However since that finding of guilt, there has been increasing concern from many that he should not return to lead our police service as he has lost their confidence. This is through all levels of the service, from the Chief Officer Group, Avon and Somerset’s Superintendents Association, Federation and Unison. In fact 24 out of 25 members of the Superintendents Association had a vote of ‘no confidence’ in him continuing to lead Avon and Somerset Constabulary forwards. Against this background plus many voices from local people including retired police officers. I felt I should start the process called section 38 - ‘requiring the Chief Constable to resign.’
The first stage is to write to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor (HMCIC) to seek his views and I have now done this. I took this unchartered step because I believe that from the evidence I have seen and heard there is now a detrimental impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of Nick Gargan leading Avon and Somerset Constabulary if he were to return.
The process to follow for the section 38 is set out in law and involves writing to Sir Thomas Winsor and then sharing his reply with the Police and Crime Panel, who can then hold a private hearing with Nick Gargan and me. It could take several months, however I know that HMIC and the Police and Crime Panel are acutely aware of the length of time that this matter has already taken and the affect it is having on the organisation and I expect them to respond in a timely manner. I do believe though that it is absolutely right that there are checks and balances on my decision making.