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Friday, December 1, 2023

‘Bad stuff will still happen’: Police commissioner says force doing everything it can to weed out rotten apples

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said he can’t guarantee that there aren’t bad apples in the force, but has reiterated claims it is ahead of the game when it comes to vetting individuals.

Steve Turner commented at a meeting about rapist David Carrick, the ex-Metropolitan Police firearms officer, who earlier this month was jailed for life for attacking a dozen women over a 17-year period.

The case further highlighted a misogynistic culture within the police, with Mr Turner being asked if certain negative cultures were being challenged at Cleveland Police.

A slew of disciplinary hearings in recent times – including more than a dozen last year – have highlighted misdemeanours by Cleveland officers, including assault, drink driving, sharing confidential information and even urinating in a clothes store, with the majority losing their job as a result.

Meanwhile, the boss of His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Matt Parr recently said hundreds of people who had joined forces in England and Wales in the last three years should not have been allowed in.

Mr Turner, who previously said Cleveland Police’s vetting of potential new officers was “pretty stringent” and as “robust” as it could be, said: “I was as horrified by this stuff that has been going on in the Met as everybody else.

“From a professional perspective, my scrutiny programme last year challenged the force around vetting long before vetting was here as a challenge.

“All of this noise about vetting now…you could see where the problems were and I wanted to be assured.

“In terms of the culture, I am never going to say that with an organisation with the best part of 2,500 people, we haven’t got people within it that shouldn’t be in it.

“But what I will absolutely say is that we are doing everything possible wherever we find this [conduct] that it is not tolerated and it is removed from the organisation.

“I am confident that we are doing the right thing both internally in the force and internally in my office to scrutinise the force to make sure we mitigate every possible scenario for those things to happen.”

Earlier, during a separate discussion at the police and crime panel meeting, which oversees the PCC’s work, Mr Turner had complained about “sensational headlines” and “stories about police officers in other forces still making the front page of a Teesside paper…which had nothing to do with us”.

He said: “We have conditioned ourselves as a force to accept that, and I don’t want to accept that.

“There is so much good happening at Cleveland Police and there has been for a number of years.

“Ninety to 98% of what this force does and has done for the last ten years has been excellent.”

Conservative Mr Turner said the force and its officers wanted to “change the narrative”.

He said: “It’s not because we want to hide the bad stuff, the bad stuff will still happen.

“We are trying to convey the positives on social media and the press releases we put out, and while we acknowledge the challenges and we don’t hide away from difficult decisions, we need to promote what we do.”

Figures published by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in Cleveland show that between April and December Mr Turner’s office issued 49 ‘proactive’ press releases to the media.

It also paid for Facebook advertising towards the latter end of the year promoting the PCC’s new mobile policing app and encouraging members of the public to comment on his budget proposals for the 2023/24 financial year.

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