Cleveland’s police and crime commissioner has said that he will not step down, despite the sudden resignation of the area’s chief constable.
Barry Coppinger also said that a re-structure of Cleveland Police would be “expensive and divisive”, and not in the interests of the public.
He was speaking hours after announcing the resignation of the force’s chief constable, Mike Veale, after “serious” allegations about his behaviour surfaced.
Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Coppinger said he was made aware of the allegations against Mr Veale before Christmas, and referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) last week.
Read my statement following the resignation of Chief Constable Mike Veale: pic.twitter.com/jbZExTgKy3— Cleveland PCC (@Cleveland_PCC) January 21, 2019
Discussing the allegations, he said: “I became aware of them immediately before Christmas and obviously everyone had a two-week break at Christmas, and when I came back we looked into them further and took advice, and then the referral was made last week.”
Mr Coppinger added that he was “disappointed” by the way the situation had played out, but said that referring the matters to the IOPC was the “appropriate thing to do”.
When asked if he was able to elaborate on the nature of the allegations against Mr Veale, he simply said: “Sorry, I can’t comment on any details.”
He also refused to say whether the chief constable’s position had become untenable prior to the resignation on Friday, saying: “It’s entirely a matter for Mike.”
Mr Veale started in the role last March after working for Wiltshire Police, where he oversaw the controversial investigation into alleged abuse by Sir Edward Heath.
He was investigated by the IOPC over claims that he had deliberately damaged a phone belonging to the Wiltshire force in order to conceal evidence relevant to the probe into the former prime minister.
But it was ruled in September that there was no evidence that he had damaged the phone deliberately or with the intention of hiding information.
But the police watchdog also said that Mr Veale had a “case to answer” after giving differing versions of the events that led to the phone being damaged.
The investigation into Sir Edward eventually concluded that, if he had been alive, he would have been interviewed about seven disclosures under criminal caution.
But officers stressed no inference of guilt should be drawn from the findings.
Following the announcement of the chief constable’s resignation, the Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, said in a statement that the appointment of Mr Veale was “reckless and incompetent”.
This is why I refused to get involved in the circus that was Mike Vealeâs appointment when approached. This joke has gone on long enough. We deserve better!! Time to go Barry. Youâve failed.— Ben Houchen (@BenHouchen) January 21, 2019
The mayor said: “To appoint someone under investigation and under such a dark cloud nationally was more than a mistake – it was reckless and incompetent.
“I said this at the time but was shouted down by the police commissioner.”
Responding to this, Mr Coppinger explained how Mr Veale was put through a “rigorous, transparent appointment process”, after which three separate panels selected him as the best person for the job.
Mr Houchen also said he had requested a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss the future of Cleveland Police, and called on Mr Coppinger to step down, saying: “If he had any respect for his officers or the public, he would do the right thing by resigning and calling a by-election.”
When asked to comment on this, Mr Coppinger said that he had “no intention” of resigning, adding that a restructure of Cleveland Police “would not improve things”.
Today I have met with Chief Constable Lee Freeman, who will be taking up the role as Interim Chief Constable at Cleveland Police.— Cleveland PCC (@Cleveland_PCC) January 21, 2019
Lee has an extensive track record in policing and comes highly recommended by the College of Policing.
Read more: https://t.co/A6nYzjTo6t pic.twitter.com/EzuQGupHBD
On Monday afternoon, it was announced that Lee Freeman, the chief constable for Humberside Police, had been seconded to Cleveland Police in order to fill Mr Veale’s position on an interim basis.
Mr Coppinger said that the force was working hard in order to make a long-term appointment as soon as possible.