Wiltshire Police has been criticised following an official investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of a senior officer being investigated over claims he sexually harassed colleagues.
David Ainsworth, 49, then Deputy Chief Constable, hanged himself in his garage in Potterne, near Devizes, in March last year, fearing he would “lose everything”.
A review, commissioned by the Wiltshire Police Authority and carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, said a dedicated whistle-blowing policy should be brought into the service.
Lessons must be learned from the “deeply tragic circumstances”, said this week’s report. It said the force should implement a whistle-blowing policy which would allow issues “to be reviewed in a timely and transparent manner”.
It also said force vetting procedures should be reviewed, in particular those for chief officers.
The report continued: “There were apparent failures in the operation of the vetting system in Mr Ainsworth’s case. As a result of inaction on the part of both Mr Ainsworth and Wiltshire Police, this remained unresolved at the time of Mr Ainsworth’s death; a period of 18 months.
“The review team were surprised that both the Chief Constable (Brian Moore) and police authority had ‘assumed’ that vetting had been correctly conducted and completed.
“However, the review found that this is not an issue singular to Wiltshire Police. Senior officers across a number of forces believe that vetting processes occur automatically.”
Mr Ainsworth took his own life following lengthy investigations into allegations of long-standing sexual harassment across two forces, which revealed up to 24 complaints from women.
The £110,000-a-year officer was removed from his duties and later placed on secondment.
Mr Ainsworth was determined to clear his name, but felt he was being treated as a pariah by the Wiltshire force, a three-day inquest heard in June.
His partner, Jo Howes, welcomed the report, saying it confirmed what she had noticed before his death, that he was affected by the way the force handled the allegations against him.
Ms Howes said: “The report correctly comments that David was effectively suspended without being suspended, due to the level of restrictions placed on his duties, and that consequently he could not feel gainfully employed.”
A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “We are disappointed that, as result of feedback received from staff, it would appear that some of the high level issues, related to senior leadership and recruitment, have not been addressed. We are confident that changes that have been made to our internal policies address many of the points raised by the review.”