'I could have walked away from all this. I'm just a straightforward cop'

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The Independent Online

After the most humiliating day of his career, when the Home Secretary called for his dismissal, the Humberside Chief Constable David Westwood had the kind of experience that reminded him why he went in to policing.

After the most humiliating day of his career, when the Home Secretary called for his dismissal, the Humberside Chief Constable David Westwood had the kind of experience that reminded him why he went in to policing.

At 7pm on Tuesday, four hours after the press conference where he pledged to hang on to his job, Mr Westwood was driving home when he came across a seven-year-old girl, lying critically injured in the middle of the road after a collision with a car. He took control as paramedics treated her before organising her removal to Hull Royal Infirmary where her life remains in the balance.

"It is at times like this that I realise why I became a policeman," Mr Westwood said yesterday - and it certainly appeared to have energised him as he fights for his job.

During Tuesday's press conference at Hull police station, he had refused to deviate from a script, saying it was "unwise" to answer questions in the light of David Blunkett's comments. But two hours of media interviews yesterday afternoon demonstrated a radical change in tactics.

At 8am, it was becoming clear that Mr Blunkett's quickness to condemn offered him a chance to defend himself. A letter of support that he read out centred on the Home Secretary's "hypocrisy". Humberside Police indicated that 85 per cent of letters and e-mails were supportive of him, and the focus shifted from the force's failings over Soham to the Home Office's failure over a decade to ensure efficient handling of intelligence on criminals.

After a long meeting with Colin Inglis, the supportive Labour chairman of the police authority, Mr Westwood was positive enough to address his chief officers' group on one of the policing issues currently exercising him - his force's call- handling arrangements. Then came the interviews, in which Mr Westwood detailed his £1m investment in intelligence systems and the roll-out of 39 local community policing teams.

"I could have walked away from all of this a year ago," said Mr Westwood. "I don't have to be here facing all this. I choose to stay because I feel I am here to deliver these changes to the public. I'm just a straightforward cop who's got a job to do here. I have personal responsibilities to the people of Humberside."

But Mr Inglis's support on the police authority may not be unanimous. Albert Penna, a Liberal Democrat member of authority, said the chairman had been wrong to make a unilateral statement. "The chief constable claims on TV that he had the clear backing of the police authority and his force," said Mr Penna. "I can't see how the hell he can say that."