AFTER recent headlines about Cleveland Police, including the resignation of the chief constable, police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger gives an update on the force

WE are currently engaged in the recruitment of a new Chief Constable and I have been delighted at the response and expect we will have the strongest field in Cleveland’s history. During the last couple of weeks I have been visiting police workplaces across Cleveland. Thanking staff for the great work they do in keeping us all safe, updating them on the recruitment process, and seeking views on what we want from our next Chief Constable.

The four-stage process I have introduced will involve candidates appearing before a staff panel drawn from across the force; a stakeholder panel drawn from all the key partner organisations across the force area; a formal interview panel, which I will chair, with professional advisors including the College of Policing, which will also receive feedback from both panels. Our preferred candidate will then be subject to a confirmation hearing by the Police and Crime panel.

I’m in contact with police staff and officers all the time, and express my personal support and thanks, on behalf of our communities, for the great work they do, in often very challenging circumstances.

I also want to reassure them personally about the future, as the elected representative with responsibility for the totality of policing here, including holding the force to account, and in view of some of the negative comments from one or two local politicians.

Cleveland Police is here to stay. I am confident, not only that that is the view amongst the great majority in our communities who need and value their work, but also knowing the great professionalism, commitment and pride our staff have in serving Cleveland Police.

The overwhelming majority of our workforce are dedicated professionals who joined the police because they wanted to make a difference to local communities and they will always have my continuing support.

Like any organisation we will have to deal with a tiny number who take the decision to behave inappropriately. Innovative reforms we have introduced ensure staff have the confidence to report any concerns they may have safe in the knowledge they will be treated seriously.

The Northern Echo:

Former Cleveland Police chief constable Mike Veale, who resigned in January, less than a year into the role after "serious" allegations about his behaviour surfaced

I read recently in The Northern Echo of a local head teacher having to pay a school cleaner out of his own pocket, and of the cutback to services offered by the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. To the list of vital public services pared to the bone you can add policing.

Over the past eight years successive Government cuts have seen the funding to Cleveland Police cut by £40m resulting in the loss of 500 police officers. That has had a very serious impact upon policing and as a temporary measure some of our neighbourhood police officers have had to be moved from patrol to emergency response.

Under this model, police officers will continue to work in their neighbourhoods, though it’s absolutely right that they must prioritise 999 calls.

The Northern Echo:

Cleveland's interim Chief Constable Lee Freeman with Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger

I remain absolutely committed to neighbourhood policing, I believe the regular presence of uniformed officers is re-assuring for local communities and prevents crime, including very serious crimes, from happening in the first place. I am pleased that our dedicated police community support officers will continue to patrol neighbourhood beats but remain of the view that the Government is shoring up serious problems by refusing to properly fund policing – and other vital public services.

POLICING nationally has lost more than 20,000 police officers due to austerity cuts and this means that difficult decisions are being made everywhere, it is wrong though to suggest, as some have, that the cuts have been applied equally.

Government funding to Cleveland Police has fallen in real terms by 37 per cent since 2010 (£40m) and as a result we have lost over 500 police officers. In that time Surrey (with a 60 per cent lower crime level) has seen a one per cent increase in funding.

The second major part of police funding is the money raised by the council tax precept and because that is based on the housing base there is a built in bias that favours more affluent areas – the more band D and higher houses in your area the more you raise. Gwent Police serve a population 3.5 per cent greater than Cleveland’s but the amount they receive in precept is 35 per cent higher – about £16m – and you can provide a lot of additional frontline officers for that.

I have asked on several occasions now to meet with the Home Secretary to discuss my call for fairer funding for Cleveland Police. I have invited him to Cleveland to see first-hand the very challenging conditions in which our officers are operating. I shall continue to press the Home Secretary on behalf of the 560,000 residents in the communities I serve.