NEW Chief Constable of Cleveland Police Richard Lewis has been grilled on everything from “untouchable troublemakers” to the pitfalls of social media in a wide-ranging debate at the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel in Stockton. Local Democracy Reporter Alex Metcalfe looks at the key issues

An ‘untouchable mindset’ and wider troubles 

The new chief and senior officers have vowed to improve after admitting their performance was “not good enough” and the force was “letting people down”. 

Putting PCs back into neighbourhoods is one move being rolled out to turn things around. 

Mayor of Thornaby Steve Walmsley told the panel a “tangible presence” was needed in neighbourhoods to clamp down on a “tiny minority” of trouble makers. 

He said: “I know you are financially hamstrung to a certain extent – but there is a mindset among some of them that they are untouchable and it seems to be growing. 

“What are we doing about that?” 

Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said the problem went beyond policing. 

He added: “There are wider issues – the criminal justice system needs looking at and that’s beyond any of us. 

“The Probation Service has more work to do to look at how people are supervised and managed. 

“The courts system has got to be looked at again – we’re closing courts and we’re taking that criminal justice process further away from communities.”

The chief agreed it was a small minority causing problems. 

Mr Lewis added: “The investment back into neighbourhood policing is about tackling those issues – they are long-standing problems within communities. 

Assistant chief arrest

Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Roberts was arrested and suspended on suspicion of gross misconduct in April. 

He was released under investigation and the matter was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

But the matter was then sent back to the force as the watchdog said the alleged misconduct took place outside of England and Wales.

The force has stressed there is a “presumption of innocence” throughout the investigation – which is ongoing. 

Stockton Conservative Cllr Matt Vickers said he was surprised there was no mention of the episode in any of the papers for the meeting. 

“Particularly given it’s our role to hold you to account on all these things,” he added.

But Mr Coppinger said he couldn’t comment on the investigation.

“When that’s concluded, I’m sure we will be able to,” said Mr Coppinger. 


Funding and work practices at Cleveland Police were brought into sharp focus this week after the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor described work practices at the force as “about as inefficient as you can possibly imagine”. 

During a visit to the force in March, Sir Tom said he was “startled to discover” the force did not have enough bodyworn cameras for all frontline officers on shift because it could not afford it.

He said this would have been a “broadly one-off cost” of £300,000.

Ahead of the revelations, Cllr Sue Jeffrey, member for South Bank, told the panel she had concerns about the financial reserves of the force.

“The use of reserves seem to be significant and they seem to be depleted,” she added.

Cleveland Police has received £132.7m from central government for 2019/20 – an increase of 5.77 per cent.

But Mr Coppinger had said in the past it was the “lowest in the country” in real terms. 

Social media 

Passions tend to run high on social media when crimes are committed and wrongdoing is suspected.

Cllr Walmsley believed social media didn’t help at times.

“We’ve had minor things just blown up out of all proportion,” he added. 

But Stockton cabinet member Cllr Steve Nelson welcomed officers offering real-time reporting of raids and police successes online.  

He said “I was sick and tired of having discussions with 50-year-old sergeants and police officers waiting to retire who would have nothing to do with modern social media because they thought it was a waste of time.

“They’ve got a 20-year-old PCSO sat next to them who can do it in eight seconds."

Mr Lewis said: “We try and highlight that good news – there’s more that we can do. 

“We trust our officers to go out with batons and pepper spray but we don’t always trust them with a mobile phone and social media account which seems odd.”

A full house

Attendance levels at the police and crime panel haven’t always been the best. 

Until Tuesday, Hartlepool members hadn’t attended since 2018. 

But there was a full roster at the latest gathering which drew compliments from chairwoman Cllr Norma Stephenson. 

“I think that’s the first time in the history of this panel we’ve had 100 per cent attendance,” she added. 

Roof leak sorted 

Cleveland’s £20m community hub in Hemlington sprung a leak during wet weather last month and water had to be pumped out by the fire brigade. 

The panel was told it had all been sorted out at no extra cost.