19 Aug 2015

Chief constable asked to resign after misconduct verdict

Concerned over the ability of Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan to lead the force after being found guilty of misconduct, the local police and crime commissioner calls for his resignation.

Mr Gargan, who has been suspended from his role on full pay since May 2014, was facing 10 charges of gross misconduct and three of misconduct following allegations of inappropriate advances to female colleagues and leaked internal memos.

An IPCC investigation into the allegations concluded that Mr Gargan had “allowed the boundary between his professional and personal life to become blurred.”

It also found that Mr Gargan had forwarded work emails to a personal email address and then on to others and had used a police-issue mobile phone for exchanging personal messages, including “in some cases, very intimate text message exchanges between him and various women”.

The storage of such personal material on a police phone “raised questions about CC Gargan’s judgement” the IPCC found.

Having received the IPCC report, the misconduct hearing in July found Mr Gargan guilty on eight charges of misconduct and recommended that Mr Gargan should receive eight final wirtten warnings.

His suspension was lifted and he went to work with the National Police Chiefs Council, rather than within the Avon and Somerset force.

Detrimental impact

However criticism of Mr Gargan has continued to grow in the weeks since the disciplinary hearing.

A public petition calling for him to step down received over 1,000 signatures.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens said on Wednesday that “concerns have been raised to me by the Chief Officer Group, Superintendents Association, Police Federation and Unison about Nick Gargan continuing to lead Avon and Somerset Constabulary”.

Ms Mountstevens said she believed the detrimental impact on Mr Gargan’s ability to lead the force was such that she had decided to initiate a separate the process to require him to resign and would be writing to HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor.

Mr Gargan has now been suspended again.

A spokesman for the Chief Police Officers Staff Association said “the sudden announcement of a process to seek his resignation is a huge disappointment for Chief Constable Gargan… he placed his fate in the hands of an expert professional panel, which made a clear recommendation that he should go back to work.”

The disciplinary process has already cost almost £600,000, according to the Western Daily Press.

‘Strong opinions’

The IPCC report into Mr Gargan’s behaviour said that of the more than 50 people interviewed, 14 women and two men had given a very positive picture of their chief constable.

However about 10 people gave negative acounts unrelated to the specific allegations, including allegations of bullying and favouritism, but none of them wished to make a formal complain as many were fearful about a possible negative impact on their career.

The IPCC concluded: “taken as a whole, the accounts revealed Mr Gargan to be a chief constable who provokes strong opinion in others, ranging from admiration and loyalty.. to disquiet and disapproval.”