No one could have been as frustrated and disappointed at the length of time and the costs involved as I was. However there is a strictly regulated process that must be followed.
Once information was brought to my attention I immediately referred it to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).They investigated it and there were lengthy delays regarding IPCCs disclosure. CC Gargan was found guilty of 8 counts of misconduct by an independent panel. I was not a member of that panel. Their unanimous recommendation was that he should receive 8 Final Written Warnings. During and after this process, it was apparent that he had lost the confidence of the Constabulary and the public.
I submitted a full report to the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor asking for his views of my proposal to call upon Mr Gargan to resign. He responded that I was fully justified to call upon Mr Gargan to resign from his position. Sir Tom Winsor said "I believe he should resign because the efficiency and effectiveness of Avon & Somerset Constabulary requires it". Following this, I requested CC Gargan to resign which he did.
During this period John Long, Deputy Chief Constable, ably became the Temporary CC. On John's retirement, the Deputy Chief Constable, Gareth Morgan acted up until we had completed a robust and transparent recruitment process. The outcome of which was the appointment of our new Chief Constable, Andy Marsh.
Overall, this was a demanding and challenging process. However, it is the PCC's role to hold the Chief Constable to account. During this process I came under considerable party political pressure to reinstate Mr Gargan. Correctly, I resisted. In Sir Tom Winsor's words "The PCC cannot afford to allow CC Gargan to return and wait for him to fail. The people of Avon & Somerset require better". This reflects the importance of a truly independent PCC who will act without fear or favour and reinforces the crucial importance of keeping party politics out of policing.
There are a number of reasons why some police stations are moving. The Government has imposed 20% cuts to the police budget. Some police buildings are increasingly unsuitable for modern policing work- too large and expensive to maintain. There is a stark choice. Do we continue to fund underused buildings or do we protect and keep more Police Officers and PCSO's. Lets never forget £1million saved protects 20 Police Officers.
With four centralised custody suites and a smaller workforce, some of our stations are now too big, difficult to maintain, inadequate for modern policing with a decreasing number of people visiting them. Local people prefer to contact the police either on the phone or online.
Most stations are re-locating to either sharing buildings with Local Authorities, fire and/or ambulance or new buildings such as the new Police Centres in Patchway, Keynsham and Bridgwater. And new ones are being built in Weston super Mare and Southmead, Bristol.
I was delighted that Frome will next month have a police enquiry office at Frome Library, where the public will be able to speak to a uniformed member of staff – such as crime reporting, traffic collisions, crime prevention advice etc.
The police are committed to deliver great policing by continuing to be based in our towns and cities but they will be smaller sites, working in partnerships. We need strong neighbourhood teams immersed in our local communities. We need to strengthen those links through more accessible buildings and more collaborative working such as we have at Shape Mendip and Clevedon.
Through exceptional partnership working with health, from 1st June 2016, this Dickensian practice will cease. Adults who are having a mental crises will no longer be taken into police cells except in exceptional circumstances. The partnership approach has also delivered mental health nurses going out with police in Bristol helping our most vulnerable. This summer there will be mental health professionals working alongside the Force Service Centre finding alternative ways to help and give them support. Those who are ill deserve to be treated by the NHS, not by the police.