Chief's comments spark inter-force spat

THE Chief Constable of Suffolk was embroiled in an inter-force spat last night after saying a neighbouring police force was performing at a "Billy No Mates" level.

THE Chief Constable of Suffolk was embroiled in an inter-force spat last night after saying a neighbouring police force was performing at a "Billy No Mates" level.

Alastair McWhirter made comments about Cambridgeshire Police while talking to local councillors about policing in the East Anglian region.

Julie Spence, acting chief constable of Cambridgeshire, responded by suggesting that Mr McWhirter should be better informed and saying her force was a "match for any force in the country".

Mr McWhirter was talking about the possibility of East Anglian forces being merged as part of a national review of policing.


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He told members of Ipswich Borough Council: "Suffolk and Norfolk are very high-performing police areas. There are problems in Cambridgeshire. It is the Billy No Mates when it comes to performance.'

Mr McWhirter was yesterday unavailable for comment but a Suffolk police spokeswoman said there was no question of him being disciplined or resigning.

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She said she did not know whether Mr McWhirter had apologised to Mrs Spence and could make no further comment.

A Suffolk police source said: "It was said in a very jesty way at an informal talk.'

Mrs Spence said: "Mr McWhirter is entitled to his views but I would have expected a neighbouring chief constable to have noticed that Cambridgeshire's performance has dramatically improved this year as part of an on-going programme to become first-class. It is very much a match for any force in the country.'

A Cambridgeshire police source added: "It's safe to say we wouldn't want Mr McWhirter heading any regional force.'

Cambridgeshire was ranked in the bottom five of the 43 forces in England and Wales in the latest government rankings issued in October.

Last year the force was criticised for the way it investigated the Soham murders in 2002. A report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary criticised the force for "lacking focus' in its investigation.

In May Cambridgeshire's chief constable Tom Lloyd resigned after his behaviour in a bar at a police conference was criticised.

The force is due to appoint a new chief constable in the near future - and Mrs Spence is a candidate for the post.

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