Row over appointment of Suffolk chief constable

Tim Passmore with former chief constable Douglas Paxton

Tim Passmore with former chief constable Douglas Paxton - Credit: Andrew Partridge

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner has defended his decision to appoint a new chief constable early in 2016 – just months before standing for re-election.

Tim Passmore said former chief constable Douglas Paxton had gone on long-term sick leave just days before Christmas last year – and it was time to appoint a new permanent replacement.

Gareth Wilson has been temporary chief constable since Mr Paxton’s departure – but last month the recruitment process for a permanent replacement began.

However Colin Sutton, who plans to stand as an independent against Mr Passmore in next May’s election, said it would be wrong to appoint a new chief constable on a five-year contract just months before an election in case the new appointee does not get on with the PCC.

Mr Sutton said Suffolk should follow the lead of Avon and Somerset police which is appointing a chief constable on a contract until mid-2017 to enable any new PCC elected in May to consider whether there should be a change at that point.

In a letter to Mr Passmore, Mr Sutton said: “Whoever wins the election next May will effectively be saddled with your choice of Chief Constable for the entirety of his or her time in office.

“Indeed it is a reasonable view that, in appointing a new Chief at such a point in the cycle you have the power in many ways to subvert a new Commissioner – should one be elected – and thereby the wishes of the electorate.”

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Mr Passmore said that after a year of having a temporary chief, it was necessary to get on with making a permanent appointment. Staff at Suffolk police were very keen to see a permanent appointment made.

In a letter to Mr Sutton he said: “As regards the election of a our next PCC in May, I do not see appointing a new chief constable as an impediment at all as the commissioner has to respect, quite correctly, the operational independence of the chief constable.”

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