Police chief's personal attack on commissioner Sue Mountstevens
OUTGOING Chief Constable Colin Port believes commissioner Sue Mountstevens lacks "emotional intelligence" and has "tarnished" his long and distinguished career.
The pair's on-going dispute got personal yesterday when The Post interviewed Mr Port as his eight-year tenure at the helm of Avon and Somerset police winds down.
Even though his successor Nick Gargan has already been appointed, Mr Port has not yet given up on his legal challenge about how his time in charge has come to an end.
The 58-year-old is still thinking about appealing his failed High Court bid to delay the appointment of a new chief, and to get six months' notice of his contract coming to an end.
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As The Post revealed in November, Mr Port decided to retire after Ms Mountstevens told him he would have to reapply for his job if he wanted to continue when his one-year contract expires on January 26.
But Mr Port feels he was poorly treated and left with no alternative by the new Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who has the power to remove or appoint chief officers.
"It's disappointed me that after 38 years of public service I've had to go under these circumstances," he said. "I thought – and I still think – that the way I was treated was wrong."
When asked if his departure has been harder to take because Ms Mountstevens has not got a policing background, Mr Port said: "It's not only a policing background – I think it's an organisational background and I believe a lack of emotional intelligence, that concerns me.
"If you look across the country some of the PCCs who seem to be performing well are the ex-politicians. It's surprising for me to say that, I suppose, but they are (performing well) because they understand people – they understand emotions."
Mr Port maintained he does not have a personal problem with the commissioner, adding: "It's a professional thing, as far as I'm concerned. I don't believe she dealt with me correctly, as a police officer.
"You just have to look at the letters of support I have had and the letters of complaint that she has had.
"This isn't about Colin Port, this is about the public and making sure we have the best policing service – which I think British policing is – and I believe Avon and Somerset is one of the best forces."
Ms Mountstevens has received nine complaints about Mr Port's departure – only a fraction of the 1,300 "contacts" she has dealt with since her election on November 15.
Last week at The High Court in London, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart found Ms Mountstevens had acted "lawfully" and ordered Mr Port to pay the costs of the judicial review. However, the judge did find that Ms Mountstevens, a former magistrate and independent member of the old police authority, had been responsible for the break down in the relationship.
If Mr Port appeals and loses, The Post understands it could cost him up to £40,000.
Explaining why he has taken the fight so far, he said: "What I wanted to explore was the way that officers who come after me will be treated – with respect, with dignity – which is how I feel I wasn't treated. It wasn't about me, it was about the future of policing.
"I think that we won the moral victory, because of the judge's criticisms of the PCC."
The 58-year-old was keen to carry on leading his force and admitted he does not know what he will do next.
"That's the thing you see," he added. "I wasn't prepared for it and perhaps I should have been, with the benefit of hindsight."
Not rising to Mr Port's criticisms, Mrs Mountstevens said last night: "I would like to pay tribute to the Chief Constable. He has made great improvements to the constabulary and served the communities of Avon and Somerset with distinction. I wish him every success in the future."