David Keane, Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner, has publicly released a letter he has sent to Mr Bob Fousert, the Chair of the Cheshire Police and Panel, calling for him to resign over comments made at the latest Police and Crime Panel meeting.
At the meeting on Friday 14 June, Mr Fousert claimed that Cheshire’s deputy chief constable Julie Cooke, who is also the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for LGBT+ equality, had breached regulations on impartiality by wearing a rainbow lanyard.
The open letter from PCC David Keane to Mr Fousert is below:
Dear Mr Fousert,
Re: Comments made at Police & Crime Panel
I am writing to you following the meeting of the Police & Crime Panel (PCP) on Friday 14th June 2019.
At the meeting, you raised an issue with the recently appointed Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Julie Cooke wearing a rainbow lanyard in her role as an ‘LGBT+ ally’.
You asked whether I considered such an overt political statement to be appropriate for a senior officer given that the police should be seen to be impartial in all that they do. You also raised issues with the message that DCC Cooke is sending to officers and staff by wearing the lanyard in regards integrity, leadership and objectivity within the Cheshire Constabulary’s Code of Ethics.
You continued to press on these issues and suggested that, by wearing a rainbow lanyard, DCC Cooke had breached the duty of impartiality under the Police Regulations 2003 and was taking an active part in politics.
You claimed to represent the public on this issue and stated that Cheshire residents would take exception to her political stance and breach of Police Regulations. Your comments appeared to suggest that DCC Cooke should be subject to disciplinary action for wearing a rainbow lanyard.
I explained that DCC Cooke is the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for LGBT+ and within this role, she openly expresses her support for the LGBT+ community. Furthermore, I’m proud that Cheshire Constabulary is Stonewall’s top performing police service for LGBT+ equality and that this is testament to a culture where LGBT+ staff are included, supported and able to flourish.
I outlined my views that police, and other blue light services in Cheshire, serve a diverse range of communities and it’s vital that we openly celebrate diversity and equality. I also outlined how important it is to have the confidence of all communities in Cheshire and that my wearing of my rainbow lanyard is a visible show of support for inclusivity and equality of all of our communities. I remain committed to supporting our LGBT+ community and look forward to celebrating inclusiveness and diversity at this summer’s Pride events in Cheshire.
It’s clear that all public bodies have a duty to promote equality. I support the wearing of the rainbow lanyard and do not believe that this in any way represents either a ‘political issue’ or an ‘issue of impartiality’ in the way that Cheshire is policed. It clearly represents a culture of openness, inclusivity and equality and I’m concerned that you do not recognise this and appear to have misinterpreted these matters.
Following the full and open discussion with the Panel, in which largely alternative views were made by other Panel members, I was further surprised to see that your closing remarks, as Chairperson, hadn’t reflected on the discussion and that you have continued to maintain the stance that “LGBT+, whether you like it or not, is a political issue” both during and following the meeting.
Since the meeting, I have received a high level of correspondence from not only our local communities, but also nationally and internationally. I have also received a large amount of contact from our public servants on the matter. The responses range from disappointment and sadness to outrage regarding your approach to matters of inclusion, equality and diversity.
Many of these correspondents assumed that I had appointed you to the Police & Crime Panel and to your role as Chair of the Panel. I have tried to make it clear that I have no role in the appointment of a body whose key role is to scrutinise and hold me to account.
Many of the pieces of correspondence also made it clear that someone holding such views should not chair a public body that is charged with important statutory responsibilities.
I don’t want any public servant or member of our communities to feel oppressed by these comments and I will continue to encourage both officers and staff in Cheshire Constabulary to openly express their support for the LGBT+ community.
My view, as a representative of the residents of Cheshire, is unequivocally that your views are outdated and inappropriate and should not, and cannot, be seen to be the views of the Panel. To allow such views to be seen to represent those of the Police & Crime Panel could create a crisis of public confidence.
It is also wholly inappropriate to raise matters of discipline which could in essence adversely impact on the professional standing and reputation of a police officer in this forum. The fact that you have made these statements as Chair of the Panel has, I believe, brought the Panel into disrepute.
Therefore, I request that you consider resigning from the Cheshire Police & Crime Panel with immediate effect.
Police & Crime Commissioner