Chief Constable arrested over fraud and corruption allegations

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by a Newsnet reporter

Less than three weeks public confidence in the police was been rocked by the resignations of the top police officers in the Metropolitan police force over the phone hacking scandal.  Yesterday public trust in the service received another blow when it was announced that the two most senior officers in the Cleveden police force, serving the Middlesborough area of Northern England, had been arrested in connection with an investigation into fraud and corruption within the force.

Chief Constable Sean Price and Deputy Chief Constable Derek Bonnard were arrested by officers of Yorkshire Police, who are conducting an enquiry into allegations of corruption and fraud in the Cleveden force.  The investigation is headed by Chief Constable Keith Bristow of Warwickshire Police.  The investigation was opened in May by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.  It is understood that Chief Constable Price and Deputy Chief Constable Bonnard have been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practice.

A third person, believed to be a woman civilian employee of Cleveden Police, was also arrested in connection with the investigation.   All three suspects were released on police bail on Wednesday evening pending further investigations.

Chief Constable Price, who has headed the Cleveland force for eight years, is also under a separate investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the allegation that he used “undue influence” to secure a job for the daughter of the Cleveland Police Authority’s former chairman, Dave McLuckie.  

In May of this year, Chief Constable Price had said that he was considering taking legal action in response to the allegation, which he strongly denied, describing it as “malicious”.

Yesterday Warwickshire Police said in a statement: “Police officers conducting a criminal investigation into a number of people with current or past associations with Cleveland Police Authority and the manner in which the authority may have conducted some of its business have this morning [Wednesday 3 August] arrested three people on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, fraud by abuse of position and corrupt practice.

“Two men and a woman were arrested and have been taken to a police station in North Yorkshire where they will be interviewed.”

The Cleveland Police Authority said in a statement: “The authority can confirm that two Chief Officers have been suspended from their posts with Cleveland Police while the investigations are being considered.

“It should be emphasised that suspension is a neutral act and it should not be inferred from the decision to suspend that the potential conduct matters have been proven in respect to the two chief officers concerned.”

A former chief constable, who asked not to be identified, told the Financial Times that these latest allegations to hit Britain’s beleaguered police would further undermine public confidence in the force and raise “understandable public concern” at “suggestions of nepotism or financial mismanagement”.