Say one thing, do another

Earlier this month, a Liverpool Echo article announced that a Merseyside Police officer had been sacked for clearly using racist language during the stop and search of an Asian member of the public (read in full here).

It resonated immediately, as the racist term used by the young, inexperienced constable (it was his first ever stop) was identical to that, allegedly, uttered very recently by a senior officer in one of the three Yorkshire police forces. An incident that has created significant interest and commentary both within the subject police force and the wider police service, in which news of this nature appears to travel at lightning speed.

The officer’s name and rank are known, as, of course, is the police force. Never, it must be said, far from controversy. There is, however, a clear necessity to protect the identity of the miscreant, even by jigsaw means. The presumption of innocence must apply, as must data and privacy laws at this early stage of the investigation.

But the public interest requires that light be shone on this incident, particularly given the often ludicrous posturing of police leaders everywhere over diversity and inclusion.

At first blush, it appears that the force is going to try to ride out this controversy under a cover of secrecy. It is very, very important in terms of public confidence in the police service that they are not allowed to do so. It is simply unacceptable to spend millions promoting the recruitment from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities and then conceal racist officers within the senior ranks.

This is a summary of the racism allegation which, it is said, is now the subject of a complaint to the force by the victim:

The subject officer was on a Skype call from custody, who were seeking authorisation for an extension to the detention of a prisoner. After the decision was taken and matters concluded, s/he was unaware that the call was still open and proceeded to make at least one derogatory, racist remark about the DP, including the use of the term ‘Paki’. This was heard by at least one other supervisory officer; a constable (or, possibly, detention officer) and the prisoner. There is also said to be corroboration from custody staff and CCTV in the suite. It is assumed that a legal representative for the prisoner was also present.

Subsequently, it is said that the officer was frogmarched out of his/her office by PSD, escorted off the premises and told not to enter any other police premises or contact any other police officer, apart from the designated welfare officer (normally of similar or senior rank).

These actions, for those not familiar with Police Regulations, are the characteristics of a suspension, rather than gardening leave. However, it is known that s/he attended a week long residential course at the College of Policing in Ryton beginning on 30th November, 2020. The officer’s Twitter account after a hiatus in November, was briefly back in use last week.

There are several national newspapers trying to get the story past their lawyers and name the officer. There are very particular reasons why they would want to do so, given that officer’s role and wider profile. But the response of the police press office is not helpful. Although one of the reporters did mistakenly posit that the officer had been arrested.

“You have indicated that you intend to run a story which alleges that a senior officer has been arrested and suspended over a racial incident. I wish to immediately put you on notice that this information is incorrect.

“No senior officer has been arrested, suspended or subject to a criminal investigation. Should you proceed with a story, as outlined in your approach earlier today, then this would be inaccurate, misleading and very damaging both to the organisation and any individual police officers you decide to name.

“On the basis of the above clear position, we would be grateful if you would confirm, by return, that you will not seek to publish inaccurate or misleading information.

“Should it be indicated that you intend to publish such a story then we would ask for appropriate notice of this so that we can explore all immediate legal options together with a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, as the story you have indicated you intend to publish, would constitute a breach of your professional standards as outlined within the Editors Code of Practice as being both inaccurate, misleading and constitute an invasion of privacy.”

From other policing and media contacts, further information has emerged, more generally, about the subject officer’s alleged routine, narcissistic, bullying behaviour; fiddling crime figures (with tacit approval of the senior leadership team, allegedly), alleged abuse of authority, and reports of an altercation with a neighbour at home, in which there was pushing and shoving and damage to a vehicle.

S/he is said to have now left the marital home. The estranged spouse is also a well known, serving police officer.

It is, of course, difficult to foresee much, if any, of those accusations being progressed without whistleblowers within the force standing up to be counted, supported by the command team, and making witness statements. But the officer has plainly created a lot of ill-will amongst colleagues – and the perception is that the force has, it seems, done little to curb it.

There are also shades of the Mark Gilmore disciplinary proceedings here in that, once it became known within West Yorkshire Police that their chief constable was under investigation over one allegation, subordinates who felt abused, but cowed in his presence, made a series of other misconduct allegations around bullying and sexism (no finding was ever made and the ex-chief robustly denied he had done anything wrong). Gilmore eventually retired, on full gold-plated police pension, after spending over two years on gardening leave and then suspension. At first, he was found a ‘non-job’ at the National Police Chiefs Council, working remotely from home, in a vain attempt to disguise the fact that he had been removed from office. Largely defeated by the author of this piece.

The cost to the taxpayer of the Gilmore farrago was around £750,000. The damage to confidence in the police complaints system was much greater than that.

Further specific questions have been put to the police press office. The police watchdog has been asked to confirm whether a mandatory referral has been received by them from the subject force. The College of Policing is asked to confirm whether they knew of the allegations against the subject officer prior to attendance at the Public Order course.

This is a developing news story and will be updated. Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter here, and ‘Neil Wilby Media’ on Facebook here.

Since this article was fist published on 4th December, 2020, a Humberside Police officer has been sacked after admitting using racially abusive language to describe a black colleague.

A police misconduct hearing ruled the “off the cuff” remark made by Detective Chief Inspector Stewart Miller, whilst on duty in Grimsby, was “unconscious racism”. 

Miller claimed he did not know the term “choc ice” was offensive and “deeply regretted” its use.

But following a two-day hearing, chaired by Leeds barrister Simon Mallett, he was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed immediately.

The Chair told the hearing: “It’s incredibly damaging to the public perception of the police, and to race relations locally, when there are national concerns about the policing of black communities.”

Miller didn’t hear the end of the Panel’s closing remarks; as soon as the finding of ‘instant dismissal’ was read out by Mr Mallett, he jumped to his feet and stormed out of the room in which the hearing was being held.

The dismissal leaves Humberside without one of its most senior detectives, a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) leading some of the most high profile serious crime investigations in recent years.

Described by his peers as an ‘exceptional and experienced officer’ he had started out as a beat constable in Scunthorpe, also working in Grimsby and Hull, before becoming a detective. His ‘card had been marked’ by the senior leadership in the force earlier this year and he was described as being ‘difficult to handle’ by them.

Earlier this year, there were two ‘black marks’ added to his police record over discreditable conduct, the Panel heard. The force refuse to disclose any further details.

Head of the force’s Professional Standards Department, Detective Superintendent Matthew Baldwin, added: “There is no place for this kind of disrespectful language or attitude in modern policing and we will not tolerate it from any member of staff. This case clearly demonstrates that our officers and staff will not accept this kind of language and will confront and deal with it, if they hear it.”

On any independent view, a very sharp contrast in approach to the main subject of this piece and the force that deploys him/her. It is beyond incredible that his/her spouse works for Humberside Police in a senior capacity (different surname) and has made himself part of the cover-up, placing his own career in jeopardy when the full details can be revealed.

It is said, from a good source. that the subject officer is being investigated by her line manager, a noted ‘box-ticker’ and ‘company man’, whom it is alleged was complicit in massaging crime figures on their patch.

UPDATE: In a letter dated 7th January, 2021, to an experienced retired officer and former colleague of the subject officer, DCI [name redacted] a senior PSD functionary in the subject force said:

“You [the retired officer] do not appear to fit any categories of ‘complainant’. However, if you disagree with my view, please provide me with evidence to show you do have standing and I will re-consider my decision.

“I will state, however, that the force has not received any allegation internally or externally that [name redacted] or any other ‘Senior Police Officer’ made racist comments whilst on a Zoom or any other online call”.

To the informed observer, those three paragraphs are very carefully and cleverly worded. They claim that no allegations have been raised but do not say that the incident did not take place. The difficulty for that detective chief inspector and his deploying Department and force is that too many know that it did.

Page last updated: Monday 11th January, 2021 at 0905 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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Picture credit: The Guardian

© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Scandal-hit police stonewall ‘sex ring’ allegations

A major sex scandal has been brewing at Cleveland Police for almost two years.

The lid was partially prized open by John Beggs QC at a disciplinary tribunal that attracted widespread media attention in late 2016. Sensationally, the troubled force abandoned proceedings against an officer, Sergeant Waseem Khan, who had been suspended for three and a half years, at the start of the second week of the hearing.

But, during the first week, Beggs had probed a personal relationship between Superintendent Beverley Gill and Chief Superintendent Jon Green which the ‘attack-dog’ barrister characterised as “exceptionally close“. Green had been moved sideways from his role as Head of Professional Standards Department (PSD) as scandal after scandal dogged him and his disgraced department. The replacement Head was his “personal friend“, Bev Gill. Her evidence at the hearing had troubled the Panel chairman.

On 7th November, 2018 Gill was suspended by the force, at the outset of an investigation codenamed Gosport, over allegations she subdued an investigation into former colleague and ‘dirty detective’, Simon Hurwood. The latter was officially outed, at another disciplinary hearing in October, 2018, at which Beggs QC was again heavily involved, as a manipulative sex fiend.

Cleveland Police is very clear that they are not naming the officer, and their head of communications confirmed this in response to a press enquiry in which Beverley Gill was named, and a request made for her length of police service with Cleveland to be provided. The force continues to rely on the press briefing given the previous day.

Hurwood was found guilty of eight allegations of gross misconduct, plus a number of other misconduct allegations, after the inquiry found he had groomed and pestered 21 female Cleveland Police colleagues, most of them of junior rank, for sex and other indecent acts, over a 14-year-period.

Leeds barrister, Simon Mallett, Chair of the police disciplinary panel which heard the complaints, said: ‘Simon Hurwood was treating the professional standards department as a personal recruitment centre for his own sexual gratification.’ Nevertheless, Hurwood was allowed to retire with a pension pot of £1.1 million, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

On Friday 2nd March 2018, Hurwood was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault offences,  interviewed, released under investigation and, subsequently, suspended from duty later the same day.

Following further enquiries, early consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) complex case unit in London took place. This was in relation to four victims. Subsequently, Detective Chief Inspector John Wrintmore made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with either the alleged sexual offences, or misconduct in public office. This left police disciplinary proceedings as the only course of action available.

Described as ‘creepy and sleazy’ by his victims, Hurwood abused his position as a management rank officer to have sex in police cars, and in his own office in PSD, the department charged with holding up the highest standards of conduct amongst all the force’s officers. He also persuaded female officers to send him sexually explicit pictures and videos of themselves. He was obsessed with the colour of females’ underwear, and having explicit photos and videos sent to him on his mobile phone.  One witness alleged Hurwood forced her into ‘non-consensual sexual intercourse’ and others complained of being coerced into performing sex acts.

There are also allegations surfacing that Hurwood threatened to blow the whistle on other senior officers if he was prosecuted. The name of an alleged ‘go-between’ that allegedly brokered a deal is circulating on social media. If true, this cover-up was conducted at a senior level in Cleveland Police.

There was no public appeal for witnesses, internally or externally, and some complainants were instructed to sign confidentiality agreements. Police have offered up the rationale that it was to prevent cross-contamination of evidence, but, to the more enquiring mind, it simply fuels belief in a senior management cover-up. Particularly in the light of the most recent revelations.

When approached by a Sunday Times reporter at Hurwood’s £400,000 home last week, his wife, Kimberly, said: “We are not answering any questions.” Her husband has completely denied any misconduct or sexual assaults. He has been married twice previously.

Force spokesperson, Xanthe Tait, a former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North Yorkshire, said the suspension of Bev Gill was a ‘neutral act’ and the presumption of innocence remains.

There are other allegations on social media, made by a regular and very well informed, critic of the force, Michael Carey, which, no doubt, Operation Gosport will explore, that Bev Gill was also “close” to Hurwood, in a similar way to her friendship with Jon Green. There are, it is said, other senior officers who enjoy similar relationships as part of a friends group.

After the Hurwood disciplinary hearing, and it may not necessarily be connected, it was said that Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless, who had portfolio responsibility for PSD at the material time, was leaving Cleveland Police to join the College of Policing as Senior Policing Adviser. Which has, one might say, the look and feel of the situation pertaining to ex-West Yorkshire Police chief constable, Mark Gilmore, who was sent off to do a ‘non-job’ at the National Police Chiefs Council, for over a year, in an attempt to disguise the fact that he was on gardening leave.

On 7th November, 2018 it was announced by Cleveland Police that a new deputy chief had been appointed for a temporary six month period. It was Helen McMillan, drafted in from Northumbria Police, who suspended Beverley Gill. Helen previously worked with Durham Constabulary, based in Hartlepool. She would be well advised to make a trawl of the public complaints made against Gill and re-visit them. There are at least two shocking cases that should be the subject, at the very least, of gross misconduct investigation. One made by the aforementioned Michael Carey and the other by Karim Allison, who succeeded in a substantial civil claim against Cleveland Police, and has been relentlessly persecuted by the force since. Including an unsuccessful prosecution against him. Carey has also been arrested and all his computer devices seized, but very recently informed by the police, after an eighteen month hiaitus, that the CPS will not prosecute.

On 17th September, 2018, six weeks before the Hurwood disciplinary hearing became public knowledge, a series of questions was put to Cleveland Police, and its Police Commissioner, Barry Coppinger:

“A statement is requested from PCC Coppinger regarding a report that is circulating on social media concerning an alleged ‘sex ring’ operating in the upper echelons of Cleveland Police.
The reports states, inter alia:
1. Insp Simon Hurwood, whose arrest was reported in the press earlier this year, may have assaulted, harassed up to 30 female officers, staff.
2. Insp Hurwood and Insp [name redacted] (whom it is said are involved in a physical relationship) are part of a police sex ring that may include five other named officers of managerial rank, including the present [name redacted] . It is also said that Insp Hurwood was present in the vehicle when Insp [name redacted]  was found to be OPL (subsequently convicted).
3. The sex-ring has operated for many years and those involved ‘cover-up’ for each other if misconduct or criminal matters are reported against them.
4. Insp [name redacted] has discussed publicly how ‘sex-corruption’ is rife in the force and institutional sexual assault is commonplace.
5. The chief constable and PCC are actively seeking to conceal these matters from public scrutiny.”

It took almost four weeks, and several reminders, for this response to be provided:

I take any allegations of misconduct within Cleveland Police very seriously and I have developed a small Complaints Triage team to assist the newly established Directorate of Standards and Ethics in investigating concerns raised by the public.

I will not, however, comment on unsolicited and unsubstantiated reports appearing on social media. An appropriate complaints process is in place, details of which can be found on the Cleveland Police website.

The statement glosses over the fact that since Mr Coppinger was elected as PCC in 2012, the force over which he has oversight has staggered from crisis to crisis, with scandals, across the misconduct spectrum, featuring routinely in the national press. He previously served on Cleveland Police Authority, under the chairmanship of David McLuckie, who was jailed in 2013 for perverting the course of justice.

In the light of the suspension of Bev Gill on 7th November, 2018, a request was made for an updated statement. The response was almost immediate:

Cleveland Police has informed the Police & Crime Commissioner of the suspension of an officer. This matter is within the remit of the Chief Constable and the PCC is assured that the necessary investigation will be carried out thoroughly, promptly and fairly.

It would not be appropriate for the PCC to comment further at this time.”

The statement carefully, and ironically, avoids the point that this routinely scandalised police force has proved almost entirely incapable of carrying out any thorough, prompt or fair investigation when its own PSD (now re-badged as Standards and Ethics) has been involved. There is also the collateral issue that Mr Coppinger employs a chief constable who is a proven liar, twice over. An  unsatisfactory situation, by any measure, and one that the PCC defends with extraordinary zeal.

If there are two officers already suspended, and the working hypothesis is that is the minimum number, it also suggests that the force may be drip-feeding information to Mr Coppinger, and his PCC team, to minimise the risk of ‘leaks, or for other operational reasons.

Operation Gosport is an investigation that should, quite properly, and on any independent view, have started out as a criminal investigation, not one of gross misconduct, and been referred by its chief constable, Mike Veale, to another police force for investigation.

Veale, unusually, and bizarrely, given his recent history, is the portfolio holder for Standards and Ethics. A role undertaken by the deputy chief constable in most other police forces. However, he is said by a well placed police source to be ‘furious’ over what is now being revealed and is ‘wielding the knife’ in an attempt to cut out deep-seated cancer of corruption in that department. Whatever his recent history in Wiltshire Police, this is an important, and most welcome, step in the right direction for Cleveland and its constituents.

But, until the Veale ‘surgery’ is complete and the integrity of the force recovered, Cleveland Police simply cannot be trusted to investigate itself. But, there is some light at the end of what must have been a very dark tunnel for Hurwood’s victims, as their press office provided me with this statement on 9th November, 2018.

Cleveland Police fully supports any victim’s right to review (VRR) such decisions and is currently supporting a review in this case by another police force. It is important that there is transparency in decision making and that any such decision is rigorously tested in the best interests of victims and the public.”

On 12th November, 2012, it was confirmed that Northumbria Police had been appointed to assist with the VRR. No timescale has been given.

That police force, however, could not have been West Yorkshire Police, headed by chief constable, Dee Collins. From the start of her police service in 1987 until the end of 2005 she served with Cleveland Police, including a spell in its ill-starred PSD. In the offices where Hurwood would later have illicit sex and be pleasured orally. She was also a Police Federation representative as an inspector.

She was a superintendent when she left the force to join Cumbria Police in December, 2005. Hurwood had begun his sex spree against female colleagues almost two years earlier.

Ms Collins was asked for a statement on 7th November, 2018 – the day Bev Gill was suspended –  and has ignored the request (a routine occurence, it must be said).

She has also been, subsequently, invited to comment on well sourced information that she is ‘very, very good friend‘ of 50 year old Bev Gill (a couple of years younger than Dee Collins).

The point to these questions is that the WYP chief was honoured recently by the Queen, and quite rightly, as a champion of women in policing. But that does not sit easily with any knowledge, at all, of what was happening to her junior ranked female colleagues, in what is a relatively small police force. Hurwood, Gill and Collins all have similar lengths of police service and would, at the very least, it is reasonable to infer, have been well known to one another as they progressed up the ranks.

Despite his predatory behaviour, after he became a sergeant in 2003, Hurwood was promoted and moved to the professional standards department, where most of the offences took place. Even after complaints were made against him, he was put on a recruitment panel where he could choose potential victims, implying to one woman that he could help her get a job.

Two detective inspectors were informed about Hurwood’s sexual encounters at the material time, and one victim was at a rank of chief inspector, or higher. Yet the misconduct continued, not just unabated, but even more blatantly.

It may well be that Dee Collins didn’t know, and there cannot be any presumption, at all, of wrongdoing by her, without probative evidence. But if she didn’t know, then serious questions need to be asked ‘why not‘ given her various, and highly relevant, roles in the Cleveland Police.

It’s the same question asked by many others about what she does, or doesn’t know, about alleged misconduct and criminality of her own West Yorkshire Police officers: Apart from the selfie-loving, teddy-bear hugging, gushing, heavily sentimental, fluffy, public relations role which she enthusiastically adopts, it is difficult to see, from an investigative journalist’s perspective, what contribution she makes to maintaining the requisite ethical and professional standards in the force.

In January, 2019, Dee Collins takes up a three month role at the College of Policing in Surrey. There is speculation, explored in an earlier article on this website (read here), that she will only return to WYP to say her goodbyes and then retire. That is denied by the force, but in terms sufficiently vague to leave that open as more than a possibility.

An approach has been made to the WYP press office for comment or a statement from the chief constable. In their routine, unethical, unprofessional manner, and taking their lead from the chief constable, who conducts herself in much the same way, it has not even been acknowledged, so far.

 

Page last updated on Saturday 10th November, 2018 at 2050hrs

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2018. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.