Police staff responsible for maintaining Gloucestershire Constabulary’s fleet of vehicles sold their part-worn tyres online for personal financial gain.
A six-month investigation by the Local Democracy Reporting Service can now reveal at least two members of Gloucestershire’s police staff were disciplined for “inappropriately” selling the tyres once they were no longer of use to the constabulary.
The investigation was launched in 2015 but the constabulary would not confirm the exact number of people involved. No police officers were involved.
When asked if the police staff disciplined still work in the fleet team or the constabulary, a spokesman said the misconduct outcomes arrived at “are spent”, meaning those involved served their punishment.
The constabulary said it does not intend to provide any further information about the investigation.
It also admitted it wasn’t published on their website, in accordance with normal policy, due to an “administrative oversight”, according to a Freedom of Information request by the LDRS. The force have strongly denied a claim of covering up the investigation.
Misconduct hearings deal with allegations of gross misconduct by police officers and staff on or off duty.
It said it is now “reviewing our procedures for publishing staff misconduct outcomes on our website”.
The constabulary confirmed a new manager was appointed after the review in 2017, stating they are “working with the team to improve morale and wellbeing within the department”.
Gloucestershire’s police force operates a fleet of around 450 vehicles to help deliver policing services, and the fleet team ensure that vehicles are properly maintained within legal standards.
The news comes as a document, leaked to the LDRS, revealed a review of the fleet team by a consultancy firm, highlighting the team felt that individual members who “went through the investigation were treated far too harshly and unfairly at the time”, and the force “handled events badly”.
The information can now be made public for the first time after a six-month investigation by the LDRS, which also culminated in a warning from the Information Commissioner’s Office to the constabulary.
It is brought to light after the ICO expressed concern with the constabulary for failing to provide a response after 40 working days, and delaying the response a further 20 working days because a meeting to determine public interest factors had not been arranged. Freedom of Information requests are supposed to be answered within 21 working days.
According to the FOI requests sent by the LDRS:
- Gloucestershire Constabulary paid £3,534.30 for consultancy company Quest HR to conduct the development review
- A misconduct investigation was carried out into the police staff fleet team for selling tyres from police cars online
- When asked what the disciplinary outcomes were, the response said it exempted the information under FOI law as “given the small number of staff involved, would likely result in disclosing personal information”
- When asked where on Gloucestershire Constabulary’s website the misconduct outcome was, they said it wasn’t published online due to an “administrative oversight”. They added the investigation was under the allegation type of ‘honesty and integrity against police staff’
- The constabulary would not confirm whether the members of police staff still work within the fleet team or whether the part-worn tyres were sold above or below market value.
- It also said the development review was conducted partly in response to the misconduct investigation.
WHAT DOES THE LEAKED REPORT SAY?
The report, which Gloucestershire Constabulary paid Quest HR to conduct and was finalised in February 2017, said: “Collectively, the team feels that the individual team members who went through the investigation and subsequent suspensions, were treated far too harshly and unfairly at the time.
“There is also a collective feeling that the force handled events badly, that staff should have received some sort of formal or informal apology, and promised input and closer support was not forthcoming.”
In a summary of the findings, Quest HR split the team into three groups to explore how to move forward from “past events”.
Quest HR said:
“Group A: The first group are still very angry, hurt and confused by events of the past.
“Group B: The second group is more engaged and seemingly prepared to move on and to try and forget past events, embrace new ideas and thoughts, as well as potential ideas and plans for the way forward for the team.
“Group C: The third group feel as though they have been through a very hard battle, have been asked to deliver above and beyond for a very long period of time. Significantly, Group C are near or close to stepping away from the current environment, as they feel it has now become just too difficult.”
The document continued to say small mistakes were “seized upon as further ammunition by the most militant members of Group A”.
Group B could be described as ‘the silent minority’, the report said, adding: “They long for the past, when the team worked closely together and was recognised as a high performing unit by the rest of the force.”
The firm recommended a new workshop supervisor be appointed and a workshop manual is produced.
According to the FOI, a workshop supervisor was appointed after the development review but “was not as a result” of it. The constabulary also provided a copy of a ‘Police Transport Services Handbook’ in the FOI.
WHAT GLOUCESTERSHIRE CONSTABULARY SAID IN FULL
“We can confirm a misconduct investigation was carried out in 2015. This was in relation to allegations about the inappropriate disposal of part worn vehicle tyres once they were no longer of use to the force.
“As a result of the investigation, disciplinary sanctions were issued to a number of police staff.
“Force policies were then amended and further guidance was issued on the disposal of tyres that are no longer of value to the constabulary.
“It should be noted that the misconduct outcomes arrived at are spent. For this reason and in order to meet our duty of care to our staff we do not intend to give any further information about the investigation.
“A development review of the fleet department was carried out in 2017. Since that time a new manager has been appointed and is working with the team to improve morale and wellbeing within the department.
“We must stress that during and since the investigation there has been no impact on our service to the public and the fleet department has continued to provide critical frontline support, enabling our officers to respond to incidents throughout the county.
“Under the leadership of the Chief Constable, the constabulary has been implementing a supportive leadership and wellbeing programme across the organisation over the last two years and our latest staff survey results indicate this is having a very positive impact and that people feel the organisation cares about the wellbeing of staff and is taking active measures to improve the wellbeing of staff.
“The misconduct outcomes in relation to this case were not published on our website due to an administrative error and we are now reviewing our procedures for publishing staff misconduct outcomes on our website.”