THE announcement that Cleveland Police Chief Constable Richard Lewis is favourite to take over at Dyfed-Powys Police Force in Wales means the force is looking for its seventh boss in a decade.

Richard Lewis took over the reins of the scandal-hit force in 2019 after arriving from his native force in Wales where he was the deputy chief constable.

Today, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner has launched the hunt to find Mr Lewis' replacement.

Mr Turner said: “I’ve spoken at length to Richard and know that he wants to move back to Wales for family reasons.

“As a family man myself, I can understand his decision-making and wish him well in his new role.

“Richard has been at the helm of the improvements that we have seen at Cleveland Police and has achieved a great deal in his time here.

“It is now my responsibility to find a successor who can continue to build on these plans and further improve service delivery to local people.

“Having spent time with operational teams in my first few months in office, I know that everyone has a strong desire to provide the best level of service to victims and to bring perpetrators to justice.

“I will be recruiting for a Chief Constable who supports this ethos as an ethical and strong leader and who is committed to reducing serious violence in homes and on our streets.

“I know how well-regarded Richard is by the workforce, partner agencies and communities.

“I will leave no stone unturned to find the right Chief Constable, who shares my passion for the area and who will help me put the pride back into Cleveland Police.”

The Northern Echo: Cleveland PCC Steve Turner, left, and Chief Constable Richard Lewis, rightCleveland PCC Steve Turner, left, and Chief Constable Richard Lewis, right

When Mr Lewis stepped into the role the force had been rocked by a number of scandals, including the unlawful grabbing of telephone data of two reporters from The Northern Echo.

Responding to the announcement, he said: “The improvements that we have made since I joined Cleveland Police in April 2019 are testament to the commitment, innovation and talent of officers and staff from across the force.

“This work could not be achieved without each police officer, staff member and volunteer pulling together to believe that change could happen and putting plans into action.

"Senior leaders in the Force will continue to drive this work forward whilst I ensure a smooth transition to a new Chief Constable. I have every faith that the Force will achieve its vision of delivering outstanding policing for communities.

“Leaving Cleveland Police is not a decision that I have taken lightly, and I have considered many different options, but I am moving back to Wales to be closer to family.

“I have now been announced as the preferred candidate to take up the role of Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys, and I whilst I look forward to this new opportunity, I will always have a strong affinity to Teesside and its people.

“The Cleveland area is such a beautiful part of the world and our local people have a community spirit second to none.”

He inherited the troubled force when it received the worst verdict in an inspection of any force in history in 2019 when an independent watchdog rated it as ‘inadequate’ in every area it inspected.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the force was making some progress but independent inspectors found that the force needs to continue to involve the workforce in decision making and to identify and support people with the potential to become senior leaders.

The four Conservative MPs whose constituencies are covered by Cleveland Police have issued a joint statement upon hearing news of his departure.

Simon Clarke MP (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland), Jill Mortimer MP (Hartlepool), Matt Vickers MP (Stockton South) and Jacob Young MP (Redcar), said: "As Teesside’s Conservative MPs, we would like to thank Richard Lewis for his service and for helping to kickstart the process of turning Cleveland Police around.

"When Richard took up his position at Cleveland, years of inadequacy from the local leadership had left the force labelled the worst in the country. Under Richard’s leadership, important progress has been made and the future of Cleveland Police is looking much brighter.

"Richard is moving back home to Wales to take up a Chief Constable position closer to his family.

"And so while we wish Richard well in his new post, there is no denying he leaves big shoes to fill here. This is obviously another difficult situation for Cleveland Police which now once again faces a period of uncertainty while we await a new appointment."

The force has seen a number of chief constables amongst its ranks since Sean Price was sacked in 2012.

He was replaced by Jacqui Cheers, who left in 2016; then it was Iain Spittal for two years; Mike Veale was in charge from 2018 to 2019; with Lee Freeman temporarily filling the void when Mr Veale suddenly left.