A CHIEF constable has announced plans to retire by the end of the year.

Iain Spittal joined Cleveland Police in 2013 as deputy chief constable before being appointed chief in July last year.

The senior officer, who has served for 31 years, has had to deal with a series of difficult, historic problems during his short tenure at the top.

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Mr Spittal believes he well be leaving the force in a much healthier position than the one it found itself when he first joined.

He said: “When I joined Cleveland Police I came with a clear vision focused on improving the ability of the Force to deliver policing, protect our communities from harm and strengthen those same communities.

“Throughout my time here I have been determined in my commitment to move the Force forward through what have been some particularly challenging times.

“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate has highlighted enormous improvements in the Force, particularly over the last two years. We have gone from ‘requires improvement’ to being a Force performing as ‘good’ and continuing to improve on a journey towards ‘outstanding’.

“Having built these strong foundations for the future I am firmly of the view that the time is right for another individual, an individual who will be able to remain with the organisation through delivery, to take the Force forward on this journey."

And his work has been praised by both the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, and the chairman of the force's federation chairman, Andrea Breeze.

Mr Coppinger said: "It is safe to say that Iain leaves Cleveland Police in far better shape than it was when he joined. He is widely respected both regionally and nationally within police circles and also by local authorities and many other partner organisations.

“Iain has served with great distinction as both Deputy Chief Constable and Chief Constable here in Cleveland. In all he has given over 31 years of dedicated service to the communities of North Yorkshire and Cleveland.

“In the coming weeks I will launch the recruitment for the next exceptional Chief Constable for Cleveland. In the meantime I wish Iain Spittal all the best in his retirement.”

In January this year, Mr Spittal announced the force's Professional Standards Department would be scrapped and replaced with a new independent body, after the department was heavily criticised for its handling of the investigation at an Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The move was in response to revelations that the force had unlawfully used Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to seize more than a million minutes of data to try and track down whistleblowers.

The force targeted two police officers, two Northern Echo journalists and a solicitor, as they attempted to trace the source of a number of embarrassing leaks to the media.

The retiring chief constable has been praised by Ms Breeze for how he dealt with a number of tricky issues.

“A visible leader, he has not shied away from tackling historical issues, embracing openness and admitting failures where they existed."

Arrangements will now be put in place to recruit Mr Spittal's successor.