A POLICE boss has hit back at his political critics and branded them 'hypocrites' as row over suspension escalates.

Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner, came under fire after it was revealed that a senior member of staff at Cleveland Police had been suspended while a misconduct investigation was carried out.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen launched a stinging attack on the Labour PCC after it emerged that Cristiana Emsley, the force’s first non-warranted director of its standards and ethics department, had been suspended.

But Cleveland's PCC, pictured below, hit back at the criticism branding Mr Houchen and his political allies 'hypocrites'.

The Northern Echo: Barry CoppingerBarry Coppinger

He said: "I am staggered at your hypocrisy in claiming to express support for Cleveland Police employees, whilst at the same time causing what I’m certain will be even greater stress and anxiety for a now suspended member of staff, who is entitled to due process.

"Quite inappropriately, you have chosen to draw further public focus to her situation.   You express support for Chief Constable Richard Lewis - which is welcome - but are you really serious about helping him or Cleveland Police?

"I appointed Chief Constable Lewis – I set him his Strategic Direction and I recognise and support his considerable progress here. I wonder how you think your public outburst around the difficult decision he has had to make in respect of the suspension of a member of staff is helping him or the Force on its journey of improvement?"

Ms Emsley, pictured below, was drafted in by Cleveland Police after it disbanded its discredited professional standards department following a number of scandals, including the unlawful use of ‘snooping’ legislation to access mobile phone data of two Northern Echo reporters.

The Northern Echo:

The mayor, along with Middlesbrough South MP Simon Clarke, Redcar MP Jacob Young, Stockton South MP Matt Vickers and Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston, the leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, Cllr Mary Lanigan and Hartlepool Council leader, Cllr Shane Moore, are calling for information about the suspension.

The investigation, which is not criminal at this stage, will be conducted by Cleveland Police at this time, but not by staff within the Directorate of Standards and Ethics (DSE).

Andy McDonald, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough, has shown his support for the PCC.

He said: “Cleveland Police have announced the suspension of their Director of Standards and Ethics. Clearly that’s concerning. The details are not yet known, but in due course the public will need to learn what has happened.

“Transparency, scrutiny and accountability are essential if the public are to have confidence in our key institutions.

“This is now a matter for investigation and subject to proper process. I have already made initial contact with Chief Constable Richard Lewis about the matter and expect to have an early and detailed discussion with him.

“Within the bounds of due process, I will be seeking assurances from him that all necessary and corrective steps have been taken to ensure that the high standards of professional conduct that the public are entitled to expect, are being upheld.

“I note the demands from certain local politicians and Tory MPs. I wouldn’t have expected anything less. They are playing political games demanding information that they know full well cannot be released whilst formal processes are underway.”