TODAY'S news that Devon and Cornwall’s chief constable Will Kerr has been suspended by the two counties’ police commissioner for alleged misconduct is a setback for a highly-decorated police officer.

An expert in organised crime and terrorism, Mr Kerr has been a police officer for more than 30 years and recently became a member of an international policing group dealing in complex global politics as well as overseeing his westcountry ‘beat’.

He was awarded the OBE in 2015 while serving as assistant chief constable in Northern Ireland. On the last day of 2022 he received the Kings Policing Medal in the new year honours’ list.

Today’s bombshell came in a short statement from the office of police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez, which said Ms Hernandez had suspended the chief constable following allegations of misconduct.

The matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which will investigate the matter.

No details have been given on the reasons for the suspension, and Ms Hernandez’ office has not elaborated on the contents of the short statement. The chief constable has not commented on the suspension.

Ms Hernandez’ statement said the suspension had been made in accordance with the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which gives a commissioner the power to appoint, suspend or ask a chief constable to resign or retire.

Acting chief constable Jim Colwell said: 'I understand our communities will be concerned and 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.'

Mr Kerr joined the Devon and Cornwall force as Chief Constable just eight months ago, having most recently been deputy chief constable for Police Scotland, with responsibility for local policing provision throughout that nation.

He also oversaw both the criminal justice portfolio, and the partnership, prevention and community wellbeing portfolio, a command of more than 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 had been due to hold until November next year.

It is not clear how this influential post, involving complex global politics in an organisation consisting of 195 member countries, will be affected by today’s announcement.

Mr Kerr spent more than 27 years in the Police Service of Northern Ireland where he rose to the rank of assistant chief constable for crime and operations, leading on serious crime and counter terrorism.

While in Belfast he was responsible for policing all major events in the city and was the strategic commander for the parading season in Northern Ireland.

The Devon and Cornwall police website says he is a very experienced firearms commander and has significant investigative expertise in serious and organised crime, and counter terrorism.

In 2017 and 2018 he was director of vulnerabilities command in the National Crime Agency, co-ordinating the UK’s response to child sexual abuse, modern slavery, human trafficking and organised immigration crime.