Forced-out Gwent police chief hits back at police and crime commissioner

Gwent police and crime commissioner Ian Johnston admits he ordered Carmel Napier to retire or be forced out of office

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A former chief constable has hit back in a row over how she was forced to stand down by a police and crime commissioner (PCC).

Carmel Napier was ordered to retire "or be removed" from Gwent Police after a series of rows with Ian Johnston.

She said the government needed to look into whether PCCs' powers were compromising police independence.

Mr Johnston had criticised her management style and said the relationship "was never going to work."

But MPs have criticised Mr Johnston, with one saying his behaviour was bullying.

Mrs Napier announced her retirement on Friday but it has since emerged that she was given little choice about her future.

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

Leaked documents obtained by the South Wales Argus show she was told to go by the Gwent PCC, who was elected to the role during elections last November.

Mr Johnston, a former chief superintendent, later confirmed his ultimatum to Mrs Napier, claiming the police chief was hostile to the appointment of police commissioners.

He also claimed morale in the force was at an all time low and that she had lost the confidence of police officers.

Fighting back, Mrs Napier, who had been in policing for 30 years, released a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday evening making it clear that the timing of her retirement was not of her choosing.

She insisted that chief constables accepted the role PCCs play in holding senior police officers to account for the quality of services they deliver.

But she raised concerns about whether the power PCCs have to call for chief constables to retire or resign "adequately protects the independence of operating policing in England and Wales".

She called on the UK government to look into the legislation surrounding the elected role, which was brought in by the Conservatives last year amid much opposition from Labour politicians.

Following the revelations about Mrs Napier's departure, MPs in the Gwent Police area were damning about the PCC's behaviour.

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 said.

Ian Johnston Ian Johnston insisted he did all he could to try to improve the pair's relationship

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

He added that 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".

'Compromises made'

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".

Speaking after the leaked documents were made public, Mr Johnston defended the way he had handled Mrs Napier's departure.

He told BBC Radio Wales that the police chief 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.

"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.

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael says it is not surprising there are 'strains and stresses' in some forces

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.

He has yet to respond to Mr David's comments.

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