A candidate in last year’s Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner elections feels angered after claiming his victor has cast the role into disrepute.
Lincolnshire’s first democratically elected, public face of policing, Alan Hardwick, was last week told by a high court judge that the decision to suspend his chief constable Neil Rhodes was ‘irrational and perverse’.
Richard Davies, who lost out to Mr Hardwick in November’s controversial and poorly attended elections, fears public faith in the commissioner will have been further eroded by the court proceedings.
He said: “I supported the concept of police accountability since the outset because, despite what some people think, the reputation of the police has never been lower.
“But from the outset, the first person who had a real chance to make a difference will now be remembered as someone who entered the job, raised council tax, tried to sack his chief constable and was then told the decision was irrational and perverse by a high court judge.”
Mr Davies fears the role has gone to ‘hell in a hand basket’ and believes Mr Hardwick made a ‘terrible mistake’ when he attempted to ‘destroy the reputation of a universally admired and respected police officer’.
The Conservative candidate has suggested the problems are synonymous with independent politicians ‘flexing their muscles’ to fulfil their own personal agendas.
With the full costs of this week’s legal battle yet to emerge, he is also concerned how many police officers could be lost through funding shortfalls.
Having known Mr Hardwick for around two years and grown to respect the man as a ‘rational and measured’ individual, however, Mr Davies feels his recent actions are not a true reflection of his character and believes his support team must take some of the blame.
Mr Davies now fears it will be impossible for the commissioner to maintain a working relationship with his reinstated chief constable - a view shared by a member of his police and crime panel.
Coun Paul Pryzsylak, whose role is to scrutinise the commissioner’s actions, also believes this will be the end of the relationship as he expects Mr Rhodes to leave after his temporary contract ends, which is due imminently.
“It’s a sad day for Lincolnshire and finding a replacement now won’t be easy,” he said.
“I am assuming that he is unlikely to give him a permanent contract now. Can they ever work together?”
Mr Hardwick, however, has since said that he was ‘confident’ he and Mr Rhodes would be able to work together in the future.
“This never was a personal issue. He is a professional and I am a professional, and we can behave as professionals,” he said.
The commissioner has also says his actions had been appropriate in line with his duties, even though the judge in the case described his decision as ‘unlawful’.
He added: “I have to accept the court’s ruling. The whole matter hinged on the fact that the judge’s interpretation of one document disagreed with my interpretation. The judge decided that his interpretation had more validity.
“I was elected by the people of Lincolnshire to represent their interests, and I believe I have done that. Being a Police and Crime Commissioner is about ensuring the safety and security of people in the county and I maintain that what I was doing was serving those interests.”