Police chief issues assurances over vetting of officers and staff

A chief constable who last month sacked a police constable for making “false declarations” when applying to join the force has issued an assurance to a watchdog that all available intelligence on officers and staff it employs is examined.

Lisa Winward said North Yorkshire Police had last year become the first force in the country to run a monthly search on every officer and member of police staff through the Police National Database as part of efforts to ensure public confidence in the force.

Ms Winward was speaking at a meeting of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel, which had heard as a consequence of all officers being revetted, as many as 2,000 nationwide could be sacked as well as hundreds being placed on restricted duties.

Last month the chief constable concluded Harrogate officer Christopher Hudson had made several “false declarations” when he applied to join the force in November 2017 and completed a vetting form three months later.

According to the misconduct hearing led by Ms Winward, Hudson failed to tell the force he had been arrested for arson and criminal damage in 2006, and then released without charge, even though he was “fully aware of the requirement to disclose this matter”.

It followed the 32-year-old being acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman in a police van.

Earlier this year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council asked all forces to double-check their officers to find anyone who is “simply not fit to wear the uniform”. following Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick, 48, was found to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.

Panel member and chief executive of York-based charity for sexual abuse survivors Mags Godderidge had asked for reassurances that examining intelligence about staff and officers was an ongoing process.

She also questioned how new intelligence coming into the force about officers was being treated, so that action was being taken when necessary.

Police, fire and crime commissioner Zoe Metcalfe said she sought regular verbal and written assurances from the chief constable over the vetting process.

Ms Winward said all evidence on the national database was examined, even if uncorroborated, and if any potential issues appeared North Yorkshire Police’s professional standards followed it up with actions such as interviewing the officer or staff member concerned.

She added: “There’s a lot of assurance here in North Yorkshire that we are following up on all relevant information about an officer, even if it’s uncorroborated, so we make sure we look into those matters.”

Ms Winward said she was “more than happy” to provide the number of officers and staff who were currently suspended as a result of investigations, before adding: “It’s not a huge number”.

She added: “I would like to stress that suspension is a neutral act, so it’s done to protect the officer, staff member and the public while an investigation is undertaken, so it’s not an expression of guilt or an expression of us believing that person is guilty of that matter being accused of them.

Ms Winward, said some officers or staff members had appeared before accelerated misconduct hearings and been dismissed and that details about the outcomes were available on the force’s website.