Sunday 23rd June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Missing Chiefs: Now the Missing Commissioner

Missing Chiefs: Now the Missing Commissioner

by TIM HICKS

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The Mayor for York and North Yorkshire election

On Thursday 2nd May 2024, North Yorkshire goes to the polls to elect a Mayor for York and North Yorkshire. The Mayor will then appoint a Deputy Mayor who will take over the role of Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, currently held by Mrs Zoë Metcalfe.

Commissioner Metcalfe originally stood to be the Conservative Party Mayoral candidate, but was rejected by her party in favor of Mr Keane Duncan.

Commissioner Metcalfe could have stood for Mayor as an independent, but instead chose to abandon her Mayoral ambitions and make a formal complaint about Mr Duncan, claiming he used “inappropriate language” to influence her decision on the recruitment of a Chief Constable. This conversation concerned Commissioner Metcalfe’s decision to appoint a new Chief Constable herself, instead of leaving it until after the election, following the announcement by Chief Constable Lisa Winward of her retirement on 31st March 2024.

Mr Duncan has denied Commissioner Metcalfe’s allegation, is still the Conservative Party candidate and has been quoted as saying that an investigation found no cause for action.

For more information, please see this correspondence which is published on Commissioner Metcalfe’s website here. No doubt causing Mr Duncan further embarrassment. Independent candidate for the office of Mayor for York and North Yorkshire retired police Inspector Keith Tordoff MBE has commented:

“By publicly recording the unethical approaches by Mr Duncan, Commissioner Metcalfe is making her “stance” on the persistent and inappropriate approaches made by Councillor Keane Duncan clear.

Surely it is essential that there is no place in North Yorkshire for allowing any form of coercive, controlling, ‘ oppressive ‘ behaviour to go unchallenged – especially when made towards women whilst at the same time portraying themselves as role models and seeking a prominent position in public life.”

Arguably, the Deputy Mayor appointment is more important than the Mayor, because the Deputy Mayor is responsible for policing. Both officials have to work very closely together, so it is difficult to envisage how this will work, given that Zoë tried to destroy Mr Keane’s candidacy with a misconduct complaint. An act which – understandably – will have been seen as disloyal and contrary to the best interests of her party. This will not have endeared her to her Conservative Party colleagues, who – understandably – value loyalty above all other qualities.

It follows from this that the future of Commissioner Metcalfe is a factor in the election. So some examination of her record is probably appropriate as part of the NYE’s election coverage.

Female detainees being abused in NYP custody suites.

Unquestionably the most serious scandal the NYE has been covering is a gang of NYP Officers who have been watching female detainees while they are undressed. If a male member of the public was caught watching women getting changed in the changing room of a gym, they would instantly be arrested. However, Commissioner Metcalfe has refused to comment or do anything, so no action has been taken against these men.

Clearly this is deeply concerning for a public official who is paid to hold the police to account.

Particularly as it follows on from the convictions of rapist and murderer PC Wayne Couzens and serial rapists PC Steven Carrick and PC Cliff Mitchell, who should all have been detected earlier and dismissed the service. As with the NYP custody officers, all of these predatory officers were protected from arrest by their police colleagues and allowed to carry on offending with impunity.

Commenting on this, North Yorkshire Councillor Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, the Liberal Democrat candidate to be Mayor said:

“Regarding the allegations that male officers have been watching female detainees while undressing, this is a serious issue of concern. As Mayor I would ensure that this was thoroughly investigated and prosecuted accordingly.

My policy, specifically regarding policing, is that the current system is broken and we need to get crime under control. We aren’t spending enough money on community policing, which drives up crime, and lack of rehabilitation creates a reoffending spiral.

I think the decision by Commissioner Metcalfe to appoint a Chief Constable before the Mayoral election was probably unavoidable, although I haven’t discussed this with her. It would have been a long time to for a temporary position to have been held, as I understand the appointment was made last year. This appointment would have been ratified by the Police and Fire Commission Panel, so the decision would also have been scrutinised and endorsed at that level.”

Senior Officer suspended.

In November, the Independent Office for Police Conduct started a criminal investigation into an allegation that a senior NYP officer may have provided a false or misleading account to avoid receiving a sanction for a speeding offence. In December it announced this and that the officer concerned had been notified of the investigation and suspended from duty.

Commissioner Metcalfe will not say who this officer is or his rank, although internet comment has indicated it is the former Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) of NYP DCC Mabs Hussein.

The IOPCs definition of a senior officer includes Chief Officers, not just Inspectors, Chief Inspectors, Superintendent and Chief Superintendents. However, I can confirm that Chief Constable Winward is not the Officer at the center of the IOPC speeding investigation.

DCC Hussain’s profile disappeared off the force website at about the same time; he retired shortly thereafter.

Commissioner Metcalfe has refused to comment on the strange departure of DCC Hussain, other than:

“In relation to your questions about the IPOC enquiry, we do not hold this information and you will need to contact the IPOC directly.”

So it appears that Commissioner Metcalfe does not know what is going on in her own Force – clearly a completely unacceptable state of affairs.

Happily, unlike Commissioner Metcalfe, the IOPC, has a very helpful media office which recognizes that this is a major issue in North Yorkshire. An IOPC spokesperson said:

“Our investigation into an allegation that a senior North Yorkshire Police officer may have provided a false or misleading account to avoid receiving a sanction for a speeding offence is at an advanced stage.

On conclusion of the investigation we will determine whether there is any indication the officer may have committed a criminal offence or whether they should face disciplinary proceedings.”

The IOPC will determine if a criminal offence has been committed and will send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider whether to authorise charges. This process is not affected by whether the Officer is still serving.

Retiring or resigning does not prevent an Officer from facing disciplinary proceedings. If it is found that a former Officer would have been dismissed if they were still serving, they could still be added to the Police Barred List and prevented from getting a job in policing in the future.

So the NYE will continue to cover this story and the outcome of the IOPC investigation.

Chief Constable Winward goes AWOL

Chief Constable Lisa Winward suddenly stopped work in, I believe, October 2023 – highly unusual, given that she was due to retire on 31st March 2024.

NYE sources indicate that Chief Constable Winward was not happy about something and walked out. Rumours of future legal action are swirling around NYP Force Headquarters.

Again, Commissioner Metcalfe is refusing to comment on this, or the £120,000 to £130,000 salary cost to the North Yorkshire taxpayer of having Chief Constable Winward and DCC Hussain sitting at home doing nothing.

Clearly again an unacceptable response for someone that is supposed to ensure the public get value for money and holds the police to account. I have therefore written to Commissioner Metcalfe asking her to write to Chief Constable Winward asking her to repay the salary costs of the period she was not working until her retirement date on the 31st of March, as her predecessor did with Chief Constable Graeme Maxwell and DCC Adam Briggs. I will let you know her response.

Keeping the public informed

Keeping the public informed is a key responsibility for the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner.

The above turmoil meant that NYP was the only Force in the country, possibly in the history of British Policing, that did not have either a permanently appointed Chief Constable or Deputy CC. The Force has also had difficulty retaining Chief Officers at Assistant Chief Constable Rank. The reason for this is unclear.

Yet there has been no official statement on any of these issues on the Commissioner’s website.

The only media outlet covering these issues is the NYE. In this respect, it is fulfilling a public service the Commissioner is supposed to provide – but doesn’t.

Commissioner Metcalfe’s response has been routinely to refuse to answer any request for a media statement from the NYE – thereby withholding information the public is entitled to know.

Commissioner Metcalfe appears to be incapable of addressing these issues or keeping the public informed. It is difficult to see what purpose she fulfills. Hence the title of the “Missing Commissioner”.

Independent candidate Keith Tordoff MBE has commented on this lamentable state of affairs, as follows:

Following the announcement by Chief Constable Lisa Winward that she would be taking retirement as of 31st March 2024, Zoe Metcalfe the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire announced she would be recruiting a new Chief Constable to take over the role from April 1st. At the time I publicly asked why the appointment was not being left until after the election of the Mayor in May. This would have meant the Mayor would have been part of the selection process to appoint a Chief Constable who they would then be working closely with. I pointed out that the Deputy Chief Constable could carry out the role of Chief Constable for any period after Lisa Winward retired until the Mayor was elected – technically one month gap plus any leave entitlement. As a retired Police Officer I am aware the whole idea of a Deputy Chief Constable is to be able to step up to be Chief Constable, in some cases for many months to cover the Chief Constable being seconded to the Home Office, the Police College, leave and long/ short term sickness etc.

Commissioner Metcalfe ignored not just my voice, but that of the North Yorkshire Policing Panel, which oversees the office of the PFCC and had voted 9 to 4 in favour of requesting Zoe consider delaying the decision of recruitment of a new Chief Constable until after the Mayoral election. Within twenty four hours of the Panel’s request, Commissioner Metcalfe announced she was sticking by her decision to go ahead with the recruitment of a Chief Constable.

What wasn’t made public at the time was that the North Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable has not been ‘ available ‘ since late last year but continues to receive full pay.

Not having a Deputy Chief Constable ‘available’ to step up for the Chief Constable, North Yorkshire Police or Commissioner Metcalfe selected Assistant Chief Constable Foskett to become Temporary Chief Constable.

The NYE has pointed out that changes to the North Yorkshire Police senior officer positions are not on the OPFCC website and the press have not been informed. As well as holding the Chief Constable to account the PFCC should keep the public informed.

The failure to inform the public of significant changes to the command structure of North Yorkshire Police may be an omission, but it comes across as the PFCC lacking openness and transparency. 

If appointed I will appoint a Deputy Mayor who will take on the responsibilities of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire. The person appointed will be experienced at a senior board level and have an understanding of operational policing. I will task them with reviewing and modernising the police and fire services.

My campaign is self-funded. If elected I will not claim expenses.

Thank you

Keith

Keith Tordoff MBE

INDEPENDENT Candidate for Mayor of York and North Yorkshire.

www.keithtordoff4mayor.co.uk

Commissioner Metcalfe was provided with a draft of this article and invited to comment. She was also asked to forward it to DCC Hussain (retired) and Chief Constable Winward (retired) so that they would have the opportunity of commenting. The other candidates for the Mayor of York and North Yorkshire have all been asked for a media comment.

At the time the article was submitted for publication, no comment had been received from any of them.

Right of Reply

If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address and your views and a correction will be published, if appropriate.

 

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