Tit-for-tat exchange between chief constable and new commissioner
CHIEF Constable Colin Port and the new Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens engaged in a tit-for-tat exchange of statements about why Mr Port is stepping down.
After The Post exclusively revealed Mr Port would not be seeking to renew his contract when it expires on January 26, Ms Mountstevens – who has the power to appoint or remove chief constables – released a statement at 7.57am yesterday paying tribute to his eight years' service.
She said: "Avon and Somerset's chief constable Colin Port has made great improvements for this area. He has increased detection rates and reduced crime. He will be greatly missed by staff and partners I know that he will continue to do great things and I wish him every success for the future."
At 9.13am, Mr Port released his statement, which included the lines: "Yesterday I had a meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner. She told me she intends to start the process to recruit a Chief Constable to take Avon and Somerset forward. I told her I had no intention of applying for my job.
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A response from Ms Mountstevens came at 9.48am: "Everyone is aware that the Chief Constable's contract expires on January 26. Because of that I would like to run a competitive process to appoint a Chief Constable for my whole term of office. It was his choice not to apply, but I know that he will continue to do great things and I wish him the very best for the future."
Later in the morning, a spokeswoman for Ms Mountstevens said the fact that Mr Port can only extend his contract by a year at a time, due to the length of his service already, was a factor.
"Discussions took place yesterday and it was felt that these terms did not give residents, officers and staff the clarity which they deserve and need," she said.
Due to holidays owed, Mr Port is likely to leave well before January 26, although a date has not been set.
Deputy Chief Constable Rob Beckley will be the acting chief constable while the commissioner, who has replaced the police authority in holding the force to account, runs a recruitment process to appoint a new one.
Police Federation chairman Kev Phillips paid tribute to Mr Port.
He said: "Mr Port's retirement is going to be a real loss to both the constabulary and the public.
"He came into this force in 2005 and he turned things round in terms of crime figures. He brought Avon and Somerset back up to be a disciplined service and a force respected around the country.
"He's what I call a coppers' copper – he listens to people from top to bottom. He's been a very good chief constable and leader and it would have been nice if he had stayed for another one or two years to oversee the PCC transition."