A POLICE force has responded to criticism of its handling of an investigation into claims of institutional racism.

The Northern Echo revealed yesterday (Tuesday) that Cleveland Police has been hit by claims that senior officers are attempting to cover up problems in the force, as an internal equality review continues to be delayed.

The review was started in 2011 after concerns were raised by the Black Police Association.

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On Monday the force said it had nothing to add to its earlier statements on the matter when contacted for comment by The Northern Echo, however yesterday its Deputy Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner issued statements.

DCC Iain Spittal said: “In order to be transparent, we have announced that we have referred complaints in relation to various aspects of the management of the Equality Review and subsequent media coverage to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), who has referred the matters back to the force to investigate locally.

"I have asked for an external force to undertake the investigation, and this was publicly announced last week.

“It would not be appropriate for us to disclose further detail of the complaints. However all matters which have been brought to our attention will be thoroughly investigated, and I am committed to establishing whether there is any substance to these allegations.”

In relation to complaints against the Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer, the IPCC referred the matter back to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland to investigate.

However the OPCC announced that an external force will undertake this investigation.