CC Will Kerr suspended over misconduct claims

The chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police has been suspended following allegations of misconduct.

Jul 26, 2023
By Website Editor
Chief Constable Will Kerr

Will Kerr, who joined the force in December, was suspended by police and crime commissioner (PCC) Alison Hernandez.

The matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which has confirmed it is investigating.

An IOPC spokesperson said it had “decided to investigate allegations of misconduct” against him.

They added: “Our investigation will consider whether Mr Kerr may have breached police professional standards relating to serious criminal allegations currently under investigation by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI).

“We are also investigating whether inaccurate information may have been provided as part of a previous vetting process.

“We are working closely with PONI and will provide updates when we can.”

It is understood the allegations relate to Mr Kerr’s time in Northern Ireland, where he spent 27 years in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), rising to the rank of assistant chief constable.

A statement issued by Ms Hernandez’s office said: “Pursuant to section 38(2) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, has suspended the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Will Kerr OBE KPM, following allegations of misconduct.

“The commissioner has referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which has confirmed it will commence an investigation.”

Acting Chief Constable Jim Colwell said: “I understand our communities will be concerned about the reports in the media today regarding the suspension of Chief Constable Will Kerr KPM by the PCC. The PCC suspension of Mr Kerr follows a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

“I am keen to reassure the public that we will maintain our focus on delivering the best possible service to our communities.

“We have thousands of dedicated and professional officers, staff and volunteers within our force and strong leadership throughout which, when pulled together, mean we can continue to make improvements at pace to provide our communities with the highest levels of service they deserve.

“Public trust and confidence are at the very heart of our ability to police effectively and we are incredibly proud that in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we have the support of our communities.

“I will be stepping into the role of acting chief constable on an interim basis to ensure consistency of leadership and service delivery of policing across the peninsula.

“This now remains a matter for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the IOPC to investigate.”

Ian Drysdale, vice-chair of the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA), said: “The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall police force was today suspended in respect of an ongoing inquiry into legacy misconduct matters for which he is yet to be interviewed.

“CC Kerr recognises and respects the fact that accountability and due process are vital to any investigation, regardless of rank or position. He will continue to cooperate with any investigation and hopes that all matters are expedited so that they can be concluded without further delay.”

Before joining Devon and Cornwall Police, Mr Kerr was deputy chief constable for Police Scotland, with responsibility for local policing provision throughout Scotland. He also oversaw both the criminal justice portfolio, and the partnership, prevention and community wellbeing portfolio, a command of over 16,500 officers and staff.

He was elected to one of the three European delegate posts for the executive Committee of interpol in November 2021, a position he will hold until November 2024. This is an influential post, involving complex global politics in an organisation consisting of 195 member countries.

As assistant chief constable for crime and operations at the PSNI, Mr Kerr was the lead for both serious crime and counter-terrorism.

He was responsible for policing all major events in Belfast and was the Gold (strategic) commander for the parading season in Northern Ireland. He is also an experienced Gold public order firearms commander.

In 2017 and 2018, Mr Kerr held the director of vulnerabilities command within the National Crime Agency. In that role, he coordinated the UK’s response (both domestically and internationally) to child sexual abuse, modern slavery, human trafficking, and organised immigration crime.

He was appointed OBE in 2015 and received the King’s Policing Medal in the New Year Honours 2023.

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