Gwent chief constable told to quit by police commissioner

Carmel Napier has not yet responded to Ian Johnston's criticisms

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Gwent's police and crime commissioner has admitted he ordered the force's chief constable, Carmel Napier, to retire or be forced out of office.

Ian Johnston claimed Ms Napier was hostile to the appointment of police commissioners and that the relationship "was never going to work."

He spoke out after the South Wales Argus obtained leaked documents.

Mrs Napier has not yet responded. But many MPs in the force area were damning in their criticism of the commissioner.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Mr Johnston, a former chief superintendent, said: "I had a civilised discussion with the chief constable.

"I thought we had an agreement that she would retire and access her pension and lump sum and we'd both call it a day.

Gwent chief constable Carmel Napier It was confirmed last week that Carmel Napier was leaving Gwent Police

"But obviously somebody has leaked this document to the Argus and it's not me and it's not my staff.

"I'm not going to deny that the meeting took place, I'm not going to deny the details in the Argus are not true."

But he went on to say Mrs Napier had lost the confidence of officers, her managerial style was "unacceptably dismissive, abrupt and unhelpful" and she had failed appropriately to manage internal and external relations as well as being "deeply hostile" to the commissioner's role.

The two have had public disagreements over recent crime figures and had also clashed over the closure of several police station front desks in the force area.

'Extremely worrying'

"The public disagreement, which has been going on for some time but has only appeared in the media in recent months, is much broader than the crime statistics themselves," he added.

Analysis - Dr Tim Brain, honorary senior research fellow at Cardiff University's police science institute

"It's always been important to have a good relationship between the chief constable and the [former] police authority.

"But it's a different dynamic dealing with a group of people and dealing with a single individual.

"Their world view will have to be compatible; not necessarily similar, but compatible.

"We have seen several incidences where either chief constables have left early or the have left after a very short period of time after the new PCC [began], sometimes voluntarily, sometimes with a push or a nudge.

"The PCC has got powers to call on a chief constable to resign and there is very little a chief constable can do.

"Effectively asking somebody to resign is asking them to go. The PCC is very powerful."

Dr Brain describes the former relationship between chief constables and police authorities as possibly more balanced, with "creative tension" between the parties.

"That is harder to achieve now because of the weight of authority placed in the PCC's hands.

"The system is geared up for the PCC to have the type of chief constable they want.

"Basically, what the PCC wants, the PCC gets, at least until the next election."

Dr Brain is a former Gloucestershire Police chief constable

"My view, and it's obviously not shared by the retired chief constable, was that the crime statistics were being managed in such a way that we were obsessed with reducing the level of recorded crime and we had actually forgotten that we were here to serve the public of Gwent."

Wayne David, MP for Caerphilly and a shadow justice minister, described Mr Johnston's actions as "totally unacceptable".

"In telling the chief constable that she could either retire or be removed is tantamount to bullying of the worst kind," he added.

"If Mr Johnston had concerns about Mrs Napier, then he should have followed accepted employment procedures rather than act as a dictator."

Mr David said it was "an extremely worrying situation where a PCC is interfering in operational police matters, and when he doesn't get his way, gets rid of the chief constable".

Start Quote

Ian Johnston

The public disagreement, which has been going on for some time but has only appeared in the media in recent months, is much broader than the crime statistics themselves”

End Quote Ian Johnston Gwent PCC

Mr Johnston has yet to respond to his comments.

Meanwhile, Newport West MP Paul Flynn said it would be disgraceful if Mrs Napier's talents had been lost "because of the arrogance of a PCC who is a retired policeman anyway, with old-fashioned ideas".

On Mr Johnston, he said: "I find him very uninspiring as a person and as a PCC and I believe he was out to get rid of the chief constable.

"I believe if there's any demoralisation of the force it's because the chief constable has been removed. There's a great deal of loyalty to the chief constable. I believe that Ian Johnston listens only to those voices he wants to hear."

However, Mr Johnston insisted he had done everything within his power to make the relationship work.

He claimed that as a former police detective, he would not have made the accusations "if I didn't have the evidence to prove them" and denied, when challenged, that his own managerial style was at fault.

Mr Johnston said he made "huge" efforts to make their relationship work, saying he "compromised on everything I got a downright refusal on" for more than five months.

However, Islwyn MP Chris Evans said: "It does not bode well for the future that the events leading up to her retirement were only revealed by leaked documents to the Argus.

"The police and crime commissioner needs to take a long, hard look at his own management style. It is just not good enough that his first act in the job is to force out his own chief constable."

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