POLITICIANS have been reacting to the news that the Police and Crime Commissioner of Cleveland Police has resigned following calls for an investigation into his conduct.

Barry Coppinger announced his decision this morning after it emerged that Richard Lewis had contacted the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and Mr Coppinger's own office to raise concerns about potential data breaches.

The Labour-backed PCC had been in position since the first elections in November 2012 and was a former chairman of its predecessor, Cleveland Police Authority.

Last year he announced that we not going to stand again but the postponement of the election due to the Covid outbreak meant he was expecting to stay in post for another year.

Today, political allies and opponents have spoken about his decision.

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben HouchenTees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "I am shocked and horrified that there is a criminal investigation into the alleged unlawful conduct of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

"The People of Teesside deserve a Police Force they can be proud of, instead what they have got under Barry Coppinger’s leadership is the UK’s worst force.

"A force which the recent PEEL report into Cleveland Police rated them ‘inadequate’ in all but two areas  – this happened on Barry’s watch and he should be ashamed of himself.

“Our police force is full of dedicated, committed and devoted officers who tirelessly serve their community with distinction, these officers have been repeatedly let down by Barry and his incompetent leadership, which has culminated in this shocking revelation.

“These accusations must be investigated thoroughly and quickly so that people from across Teesside can finally start to rebuild their trust in Cleveland police, rather than the force being a byword for endemic failure.”

The Northern Echo: Stockton South MP Matt VickersStockton South MP Matt Vickers

And Stockton South Conservative MP Matt Vickers added: "I welcome the news that Mr Coppinger is to step aside, in my opinion he should have done so long ago.

"Cleveland has some of the most hardworking frontline police officers in the country and they’ve been let down by the forces political leadership for decades.

"The force has stumbled from one scandal to another with the baton passed from one labour politician to another. This represents a real opportunity to fix our broken police force for the benefit of residents and front line cops alike.

"Cleveland’s frontline police officers and residents deserves better and will now have the chance to get it."

While Labour MPs in the region have been more sympathetic towards his decision.

The Northern Echo: Andy McDonald, Middlesbrough MPAndy McDonald, Middlesbrough MP

Andy McDonald MP for Middlesbrough, said: “I am sorry to learn of Barry Coppinger’s resignation but I fully understand why he has made his decision.

“I am very much aware of the pressure and stress he has had to endure as our Police and Crime Commissioner which has been unrelenting for many years. Barry had already made his decision to stand down in readiness for the anticipated election in May 2020 but of course the postponement of elections due to Covid19 unexpectedly extended his term of office until May next year.

“The reality is that elected representatives like Barry give a massive personal commitment in serving their communities. Sometimes that commitment comes at significant personal cost and sacrifice and there comes a time when health, wellbeing and family have to come first.

"I thank Barry for his service and wish him well in his retirement.”

The Northern Echo: Stockton North MP Alex CunninghamStockton North MP Alex Cunningham

And Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, added: “I have known Barry for more than 30 years as a friend and colleague.  He has dedicated most of his life to public service as a community leader, councillor and police & crime commissioner, always putting the people he represented first.

"No-one can over-estimate his personal sacrifice as he faced some of the toughest situations including the failure of several senior police officers and others to maintain the high standards demanded by Barry and the public.

“When the May elections were delayed because of the pandemic, Barry undertook an unexpected additional year in his term. In this extra time he has continued to champion the people of Cleveland.

"I completely understand his decision, but am sorry to see him leave earlier than planned. He decision to now put his family and those around him first I very much respect and I wish him a retirement which will give him the time to do many of the things he’s always planned but put on hold because of his role in public life.

“His choice in Richard Lewis as our recently appointed chief constable is already bearing fruit locally and it is now up to us all to get behind him as he drives the change Barry has demanded.”