If at first you don’t succeed

At the beginning of October, 2018 an exclusive article on this website foretold the retirement of the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police (read here).

Dee Collins did not respond to a private message sent to her, as she had done previously when the topic first surfaced earlier in the year. But the WYP press office reluctantly confirmed the previously concealed fact that she was joining the College of Policing, to oversee a three month training course at their Ryton headquarters, beginning in January, 2019.

The press office, again after being pushed, also confirmed the exclusive news that John Robins would take over temporary command of the force, together with the details of the senior office re-shuffle that would follow.

They denied she was retiring. But pressed a second time on the basis of the strength of the intelligence that she was, there was no response. Instead a lengthy statement was given, by Collins, to Bradford’s Telegraph and Argus, one of a number of ‘tame’ local newspapers in West Yorkshire that is content to provide an all in the garden in rosy public relations service on behalf of the area’s police force.

The T&A article (read here) included this gem: “Although I will be working out of Force, I will keep a keen eye on what is happening in West Yorkshire and contrary to rumours I have seen circulating on social media, I will be returning to my post following secondment!”

At the time, a well-placed BBC source was of the view Collins would ‘return from the College in April, 2019, say her goodbyes, and retire in May’. Other police sources, close to a number of senior officers, said the chief would not return after she left in December, 2018. All those sources are usually well informed.

She would reach 32 years service shortly after the Ryton trip and could choose to leave with a huge lump sum and a yearly pension in excess of £80,000.

Also, the chief constable role in one of the country’s largest police forces has, in all truth, proved beyond her. It would be a sensible time to exit before her personal standing diminishes amidst a further wave of negative publicity for WYP. She survives in the job, largely, because of a woefully weak, and compromised, police commissioner who provides zero effective oversight. Mark Burns-Williamson and Dee Collins are well matched, of that there is no doubt, but the evidence shows that is not to the benefit of West Yorkshire precept payers.

As an experienced police officer, the latter ought also to be aware of the perils of relying on a PCC that applies Grecian 2000 to his hair, usually a reliable indicator of a man who is not what he seems to be. The vain Burns-Williamson appears to have ceased the practice since it was drawn to the wider public’s attention on social media.

That apart, being an amiable, praise-showering, selfie-loving individual and a diversity, equality champion in the wider police service, doesn’t cut it when the force is engulfed in scandal after scandal that Collins appears, or claims, to know nothing about. But deploys precious police resources smearing, and attempting to criminalise, her critics – and spending grotesque sums on PR stunts, and pointless campaigns, to paper over the cracks.

One of the policing command units over which she is routinely effusive is Kirklees. She recently promoted one ex-Divisional Commander to temporary chief (Robins), another to assistant chief (Tim Kingsman) and the most recent (Steve Cotter) to head the prestigious Leeds Division. Yet, Huddersfield is now officially rated the worst place to live in UK. Gun and knife crime are out of control, and lawless gangs give the town the look and feel of The Wild West. Top that off with industrial scale child rape, and trafficking, in the town that WYP, in concert with the local council, chose to cover up and the disconnect between Collins’ blue sky world, and reality, may be readily apprehended.

Regrettably, much the same can be said about WYP’s Bradford Division.

Her flawed judgement of the strengths and weaknesses of other subordinates is also concerning. Regular promotions for such as Robins, Nick Wallen and Osman Khan, both now chief superintendents in key roles, Mabs Hussain, now a controversial ACC appointment at Greater Manchester Police (read more here) bear this out. She also has Angela Williams in her command team, as an ACC, who doesn’t, it is said, have the full confidence of the rest of her fellow senior managers. These are the highest profile examples of a larger number that set alarm bells ringing.

In the event, Robins took over as West Yorkshire Police chief at the beginning of December. The reason for the discrepancy in their press office statement has not been made clear.

Other disclosures obtained via freedom of information requests reveal a further curiosity: The College of Policing are at pains to avoid the term ‘secondment’ for the period Collins will be acting as Course Service Director for the 2019 cohort of the Strategic Command Course (SCC). She is on a ‘flexible attachment’ they are at pains to say. Which appears, taken at its face, to be a device designed to avoid entering into a formal Central Service Secondment agreement. The sharp-eyed will have noticed that the chief constable described it as a ‘secondment’ in her gushing quotes to the T&A. In fact she refers to ‘secondment’ twice. So there can have been no mistake. Especially as Mike Cunningham, the chief executive at the College also refers to ‘secondment’:

“To have a Chief Constable of Dee’s standing in this role reinforces the importance of the course in the development of the future most senior leaders of the Service. I would like to thank both Dee for this commitment and Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, for supporting Dee’s short secondment to the College of Policing to deliver the course.”.

No mention there of her becoming WYP chief constable because not one other senior police officer in the country could countenance working for PCC Burns-Williamson after the Norman Bettison and Mark Gilmore debacles, in which both former chiefs complained bitterly of betrayal by their PCC. one in a book and the other at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The SCC is an essential stepping stone for officers wanting to progress from chief superintendent to rank of assistant chief constable. Mabs Hussain was a successful candidate in the 2018 version.

Some might say Director of the latest renewal of the testing two module course is a perverse appointment for one who took four attempts to pass her sergeant’s exams and five applications (she says three) to progress from ACC to deputy chief. But, as it appears she was the only candidate for the SCC supervisory role, and a feverish, happy-clappy networker, maybe it is not so strange, after all?

It is, also, worth recalling that Collins was the only candidate when appointed to chief constable at WYP, and Hussain was the only candidate for his new posting at GMP. As was his new chief constable, Ian Hopkins.

A College of Police spokesperson has provided this response to a request seeking confirmation as to whether the WYP chief freely applied for the job of her own volition, prior to the closing date of 10th August, 2016, or was encouraged to ‘apply’ afterwards in absence of any other candidates. An increasingly recurring, and troubling, theme in policing circles.

“There was an open and publicly advertised application process for the role of Course Service Director for the 2019 Strategic Command Course. Chief Constable Dee Collins submitted her application prior to the original closing date and was successful. We are delighted to have a Chief Constable of Dee’s standing and experience to lead the course.”

Looking at the letter inviting applications from Mike Cunningham, disclosed by way of a freedom of information request made by Mr Edward Williams, via the What Do They Know website (read in full here), it could not be described as ‘open and publicly advertised’. It appears to have been sent to the 40, or so, eligible chief constables in the UK. No-one else.

The good news, however, is that the College are reimbursing WYP in full for her salary costs, benefits, expenses and overtime whilst she is deployed there. A question that PCC Burns-Williamson declined to address when the issue of the departing chief constable was put to a meeting of his Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel on 9th November, 2018. It also seems that neither the Panel Secretariat, nor any of its Members, were aware of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which was, allegedly, signed three weeks before on 19th October, 2018.

“The Panel saw the benefits of the Chief Constable working in this role and the learning that she will bring back to West Yorkshire as positive”, said a PCP spokesperson. “There was no specific question asked of the PCC regarding the Chief Constable’s remuneration”.

Backdating correspondence, documents is a persistent, and highly disconcerting, habit within WYP and the PCC’s office, so no reliability can be attached to the date on the MoU, absent of disclosure of collateral documents.

Dee Collins has been made aware of this issue many times, and has even indulged herself on one occasion, but does nothing whatsoever to address it. As she fails to do with so many other ethical, professional transgressions of her favoured clique. Which does sit easily with her appointment as Course Director of a group of future police leaders.

It is not known, at present, if Dee Collins retains her other key position as Air Operations Certificate Holder with the troubled National Police Air Service during her flexible attachment. Her head-in-the-sand management style was largely responsible for the recent, and highly publicised, removal from post of the NPAS chief operating officer (read more here). Another exclusive broken on this website.

NPAS was also the subject of scathing criticism in a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in November, 2017. It cited ‘inept management’ as a key issue to be addressed. The two most senior figures in NPAS are, unsurprisingly, Collins and Burns-Williamson.

A request for confirmation of Ms Collins’ continued tenure has been made to the NPAS press office. Aresponse is still awaited.

Page last updated on Saturday 21st December, 2018 at 2020hrs

Picture credit: Wakefield Express

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