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Mayor accused of playing ‘political games’ in row over suspension of standards head

Cleveland Police suspends civilian head of standards who was brought in to replace professional standards department

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has asked Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner to provide more information on why the force’s director of professional standards and ethics has been suspended from her job.

Mr Houchen, who called for Barry Coppinger to resign last year after the force was put onto special measures by HM Inspectorate, wrote to the PCC to point out that “the frequency of major scandals that have rocked the force under your tenure points to a failure of leadership.”

Cleveland Police did not name the suspended employee but the politicians' correspondence identified her as the director of standards and ethics - Cristiana Emsley - a civilian who was recruited after the force disbanded its professional standards department.

The force has had six chief constables since 2012 and is still under IOPC investigation.

Meanwhile, Middlesbrough's Labour MP Andy McDonald accused Mr Houchen and Tory MPs who co-signed the letter, of "playing political games" by asking for information they knew could not be released while an investigation was ongoing.

The mayor praised Chief Constable Richard Lewis for the progress he has made in the role since he was appointed in April 2019 - the force's sixth chief since 2012.

But he asked the PCC for more details about what had happened to lead to Ms Emsley to be suspended.

In reply, Mr Coppinger accused the mayor and the Tory MPs of hypocrisy in claiming to support the force while, he said, "causing what I'm certain will be even greater stress and anxiety for a now suspended member of staff, who is entitled to due process".

Mr Coppinger said suspending a member of staff was a decision for the Chief Constable, not the PCC.

Meanwhile, Mr McDonald said he will be in regular contact with the chief about the inquiry.

The Labour MP said: "Within the bounds of due process, I will be seeking assurances from him that all necessary and corrective steps have been taken to ensure that the high standards of professional conduct that the public are entitled to expect, are being upheld.

"I note the demands from certain local politicians and Tory MPs.

"I wouldn't have expected anything less.

"They are playing political games demanding information that they know full well cannot be released whilst formal processes are underway."

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