New police commissioner faces search for new chief constable

THE new Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside will have to hit the ground running with the task of appointing a new chief constable likely to be high on the agenda.

As well as seeking to establish themselves and dealing with the in-tray left by a 17-member police authority, they will in their first year of office have to exercise one of the greatest powers invested in them in finding a replacement for Humberside Police Chief Constable Tim Hollis.

Mr Hollis, who has overseen a transformation of the force’s performance, has revealed he will not serve beyond his eighth year as chief, which begins on Sunday.

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When asked about the future, the chief constable, who today voices concerns about the politicisation of policing through elected commissioners, said: “Would I be interested in staying on? I’m not sure I would really.

“I have had an immensely satisfying time as chief and I am very proud of where the force is today, the service we provide to our local communities and the contribution we continue to make within the region and nationally. There comes a moment when you know it’s time to hand over to someone new – but it’s not yet.”

He took over what was then arguably one of the most difficult jobs in policing, with the force languishing at the wrong end of Home Office performance tables, and having being strongly criticised by the Bichard Inquiry for intelligence failings relating to the Soham child killer Ian Huntley.

The most easily measured improvements have been year-on-year reductions in crime, and over the past eight years in the force area there has been a 48.2 per cent reduction in recorded crime, including a 57.3 per cent fall in domestic burglary, a 53.2 per cent drop in criminal damage, a 72.4 per cent reduction in robbery, and a 41 per cent fall in violence against the person resulting in injury.

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Mr Hollis said: “When I arrived as chief in 2005 the force was in a very difficult place. It was at the bottom of the police performance league tables and it had been severely criticised in the Bichard report on Soham.

“Since then we’ve returned the pride and self-confidence to the force, restored its reputation locally and nationally and reduced crime substantially and I’m sure that will continue into the future. Today, Humberside Police is a good force which frequently punches above its weight. That’s my main contribution to policing locally and within the region and it’s very satisfying to leave that legacy.”

As an officer with 35 years’ service he has seen a lot of change, and acknowledges funding cuts will alter the landscape further.

He does not rule out some of the measures being considered by other forces to balance the books – with Surrey and the West Midlands having drawn up plans to use private firms to take over some work – but said Humberside did not yet have to follow.

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As part of a collaboration programme, Yorkshire’s chiefs have been exploring money-saving agreements, sharing departments and resources, and have teamed up to buy some equipment and services through common suppliers to cut costs.

Mr Hollis said: “What is new are budget cuts on this scale and some forces are in a more difficult position than this force.

“West Midlands is understandably exploring all avenues about how to deliver and protect their communities effectively with less money. We watch with interest but we are not in a position where we are having to look at such radical proposals.

“I would never say never but in some areas we have to proceed very carefully.”

In spite of his concerns he said he was confident the service would survive, however changed, and continue to protect the public.