Teesside Live and The Gazette last month called for the resignation of Cleveland’S Police and Crime Commissioner following a damning inspection report. Digital Editor Ian McNeal explains the background to the decision.
Even for those of us who’ve covered the soap opera of Cleveland Police in the last two decades, the force’s latest inspection was stunning.
And not in a good way.
The release of an HM Inspectors review into Cleveland, was the worst ever I’ve read into a public body.
The 70 pages laid bare a force in disarray as it became the first ever to be classified as failing in all areas.
Our readers are no strangers to problems at Cleveland Police.
Going back to the 1990s, the force has been beset by a string of scandals, including corruption, racism and illegal spying.
Coverage was led by Local Democracy Reporter Alex Metcalfe, whose meticulous reports set out the wide-ranging crisis gripping the force from top to bottom.
Alongside this, he interviewed the recently-installed chief constable Richard Lewis and the long-standing police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger.
The reactions given by the two men were almost as revealing as the report itself.
While chief constable Lewis pledged sweeping action to change the force’s leadership and culture there was a reluctance for the commissioner to take responsibility.
Mr Coppinger, who has been in post since 2012, insisted he would not resign and would in fact stand again at the PCC elections next May.
There have been repeated calls from local Conservative politicians for Labour’s Mr Coppinger to resign before the report, which obviously had their own political dimension.
But the damning criticism from inspectors, the response from our readers and Mr Coppinger’s insistence that he would continue regardless led to us the point where we also felt it necessary to call for his resignation.
We wrote an editorial explaining our position, which led our site and splashed in print on Saturday morning with the headline “Time to go”.
It was important for us not to make it personal or a vendetta, but instead explain, backed up by evidence in the report, why we felt it was time for Mr Coppinger to resign.
A key role of our organisation — and indeed one of Teesside Live’s core brand values — is to hold our elected representatives to account where we believe they are falling short.
On the Monday after publication Mr Coppinger announced that after a “weekend of reflection” he would still not resign immediately but he would now not stand for re-election next year.
You can read the full editorial here