As I write this the chief constable of Lincolnshire is preparing for the judicial review over his suspension. The decision to seek legal recourse has forced the police and crime commissioner (PCC) to break his incomprehensible silence on the matter.
There is likely to be a judgement on whether the PCC, Alan Hardwick, was legally able to suspend Neil Rhodes. Whatever the allegations against Mr Rhodes, Mr Hardwick’s sudden statement shows a huge rift between the two. He has condemned his chief constable’s behaviour on the subject and exposed a bitter exchange that shows a breakdown that would test the recovery skills of an England cricket team.
The decision to suspend a chief constable is very serious and must be managed very carefully. The police service is severely hampered by a failure to deal with conduct matters in a timely and proportionate manner. Often common sense goes out of the window in order to demonstrate thorough adherence to process and procedure.
When asked by the BBC about the suspension, I publicly appealed for proportionality for the sake of confidence and trust in the force. The danger for the PCC is that it can get very messy and lead to irrevocable damage to both parties, and subsequently affect the standing of the force – we are seeing the beginning of that outcome with the judicial review.
Mr Hardwick’s statement says the decision to suspend is a neutral act; however, it also included a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and a subsequent investigation by Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy, arguably heightening the impression of wrongdoing.
Whatever the outcome it will leave communities in Lincolnshire deeply concerned at the integrity of senior officers, even though the IPCC said the matter “does not amount to serious corruption or misconduct which would merit an IPCC investigation”.
I have to ask whether it would be better for PCCs, individuals of strong standing and character, to lead by example and sort matters out without having to resort to such damaging consequences.