A leading detective sacked for failing to provide a specimen for a drink-driving breath test was not getting enough support in his “hugely stressful job”, according to a body representing senior officers.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Knopwood was dismissed without notice for ‘gross misconduct’ by West Yorkshire Police after a court banned him from driving for 12 months and fined him £1,000 at a hearing last month.
His dismissal means he will miss out on between £1 million and £2 million in pension payments, according to the Police Superintendents’ Association, which represents more than 1,000 officers in senior management positions.
Prior to his sacking, Knopwood had been head of protective services (crime), the division responsible for all major criminal investigations carried out by Yorkshire’s biggest police force.
Knopwood became head of the department, formed when the force’s Crime Division and Homicide and Major Enquiry Team were merged, in November last year.
Victor Marshall of the staff association said he had a “hugely stressful” job and that the number of superintendent positions had dropped in recent years due to shrinking resources, meaning more work was being put onto fewer officers.
Mr Marshall, who represented the detective in his misconduct hearing, said the public interest was not served by removing “an outstanding detective who has served the public with distinction for 24 years”.
He said: “As a staff association we think he should have had more support in this critical role. He is not saying categorically that had he had more support this would not have happened, we can’t say that either.
“If someone is supported more in such a high profile job then the pressure may not have been as intense as it clearly was.
“This is a man who gets up in the early hours of the morning and finishes late in the evening on many occasions. On this occasion he decided to unwind and made an error of judgement, thinking he was OK to drive and clearly he was not.”
Harrogate Magistrates Court heard Knopwood was stopped by officers from North Yorkshire Police in Knaresborough, just after 11pm on April 28 after they noticed him driving “extremely slowly”.
Knopwood told officers he had had two pints when asked if he had been drinking. He was then asked to take a road side breath test and was more then one-and-a-half-times the legal limit.
Melanie Ibbotson, prosecuting, said Knopwood complained of feeling unwell as he was taken to the police station and said he wanted to go to hospital to see a doctor.
The prosecutor said: “Officers were of the opinion that Mr Knopwood was well enough to be taken into police custody and take the full breath test procedure.
“During the procedure he declined to provide the necessary evidential samples of breath and stated that he was unwell.”
Knopwood, of Park Lane, Knaresborough, was taken to hospital where he was quickly assessed and returned to custody without treatment.
Magistrates heard the consequences for Knopwood, his wife and 12-year-old daughter would be “catastrophic” and have a profound financial effect on them.
The arrest took place on the day Knopwood’s officers were investigating the murder of Leeds school teacher Ann Maguire, but Mr Marshall said he had no direct involvement in the investigation itself.
He said: “We absolutely sympathise as a staff association with the family of Ann Maguire and we wouldn’t want them to think he had neglected his duties.
“He himself, in relation to Ann Maguire’s case, recognised it was a terrible thing to have happened, to suggest that he was in charge of that investigation is simply untrue. He had made sure that all the necessary arrangements were in place by talented detectives.”
He added: “He has conceded that his conduct was not what should be expected but we argue that the public interest is simply not served by removing him.
“We do not in any circumstances condone drink driving, that is not what this is about. We are saying there is a debate to be had about whether we should lose, not an ordinary policeman or a good policeman, or even a very good policeman, but an outstanding and talented policeman. We say the public is poorer for it, for losing the services of someone like Dave Knopwood.
“We are picking up as an association that people are surprised and shocked that such a talented public servant has been removed for one error of judgement.”
Detective Superintendent Osman Khan of West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards, said: “Every officer within West Yorkshire Police has access to a line manager, an association such as the Superintendents Association, Police Federation or union as well as the Occupational Health Unit and colleagues.
“Although we do not comment on individual cases such as these, concerns regarding work loads should be raised with line managers to see what assistance can be put in place.”