Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel quizzed Temporary Chief Constable Neil Rhodes at a public confirmation hearing yesterday (December 6), ahead of his proposed recommendation to take on the role fulltime next week.
The Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick, sat alongside Chief Constable Rhodes and also addressed questions raised by the panel at Tedder Hall, Manby, on Friday afternoon.
In particular, questions were raised about the prospects of a good working relationship between the pair following the PCC’s decision to suspend Chief Constable Rhodes in February following allegations of professional misconduct. The suspension was quashed two months later, and the misconduct allegation was formally withdrawn.
In response to the question, posed by South Kesteven District Councillor Ray Wootton, PCC Hardwick said: “I can absolutely assure you that there has never, ever, been a breakdown of trust and confidence between myself and the chief constable.
“His professional attitude to the job, the way he does the job, has never been in question.
“As far as I am concerned, there are no bridges to mend. You have before you two professional men who have a very close relationship which should continue for the benefit of everyone in Lincolnshire.”
Chief Constable Rhodes later echoed PCC Hardwick’s comments, and said: “We had a situation earlier this year where I fundamentally disagreed with a decision that the commissioner had taken. We explored all routes to resolve that, and finally it ended up with a judicial review at the High Court. We then settled back down at work, and very professionally continued with policing for Lincolnshire.”
PCC Hardwick shrugged off suggestions from City of Lincoln Councillor Fay Smith that there should be any concern that only one candidate applied for the job, and dismissed Coun Wootton’s suggestion that the controversial suspension of Chief Constable Rhodes could have put off potential applicants.
Responding to Coun Smith, PCC Hardwick said: “I don’t have to wait for a number of candidates to apply. One candidate applied before the closing date, and therefore the process continued.
“It’s not unusual for one candidate to be considered.”
Moving their focus on to Neil Rhodes, the panel asked the candidate to describe his personal qualities, professionalism, and operational independence, and requested details of his plans with regards to crime reduction, finance, diversity, stability and communication.
Chief Constable Rhodes expressed his desire to tackle the emergence of rightwing extremism in Lincolnshire, particularly following a rise in the number of migrant workers in the south of the county. His comments follow a recent far-right demonstration in Lincoln which resulted in a policing bill of over £100,000.
He said: “I want your families, and my family, to be able to go shopping in Lincoln or anywhere else in this county on a Saturday without having to worry about people coming to demonstrate and cause problems.”
Chief Constable Rhodes expressed his gratitude to neighbouring police forces that assisted with the emergency operation in Boston on Thursday evening following severe flooding, and said that he would work to strengthen such partnerships. Mr Rhodes and Mr Hardwick received praise from Boston Borough Councillor Stephen Woodliffe, who said: “I think that without your support and the work of your officers it could have been a very dangerous situation indeed, and I think lives have been saved because of what has been done in the last 24 hours.”
The panel went into a closed session to discuss and agree their recommendation, which will be revealed to Mr Rhodes before Monday afternoon.