Embattled police and crime commissioner will not stand for re-election

The political chief of a scandal-hit and failing police force has announced he has changed his mind and will not stand for re-election next year.

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Barry Coppinger faced calls to resign after the force was rated inadequate overall and in three key areas by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The force has had six chief constables in almost as many years, and Mr Coppinger said his decision not to put himself up for re-election in May will allow Richard Lewis, who took over as top officer in April, space to make the necessary changes.

Mr Coppinger said: “I hope this will enable everyone to now get behind the new chief constable Richard Lewis and support him as he takes forward robust plans to drive forward improvements.

“For that to happen, it requires everyone to be pulling in the same direction and it has become clear to me that the current focus on me and calls for my resignation will not allow that to happen.

“Richard needs to be able to get on with the job without such distractions.

“Change is already well under way and in my remaining months in office and in meetings with the HMI I will do all I can to ensure that continues.”

Last week, the Labour PCC had said he would seek re-election, saying his job was to scrutinise the work of the chief constable.

But since the damning HMICFRS report came out, he has faced hostile media coverage and calls to stand down from local politicians, including the Tory Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen.

Mr Coppinger has served two terms as PCC and he said the force’s problems date back four decades.

He said: “When I first came into office I made a decision to shine a light on what had gone on, to resolve those issues, reforming approaches to standards and ethics so the force could move forward.

“That did result in negative attention on the force but it was the right thing to do.

“I expect this work to continue so the chief constable and the next PCC do not have to spend so much time and energy on dealing with historical wrongdoing.”

A string of scandals has plagued the force, which covers Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Middlesbrough.

Former chief constable Sean Price was sacked for gross misconduct in 2012, seven officers were under investigation after journalists’ phones were unlawfully monitored, and there have been long-standing claims of racism within the ranks.

Work practices were recently described by the chief inspector of constabulary as being about as “inefficient as you can possibly imagine”, with officers having to share laptops and bodyworn cameras.

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