Cumbria's chief constable has announced he is to retire one year early, sparking a search for a new officer to lead the county force.

Jerry Graham said "for personal and health reasons" he thought the decision to end his career next year was right for him and his family.

The move will bring the curtain down in March on a 32-year career that saw Mr Graham rise to the top policing job in Cumbria.

His period at the force saw him act as the Gold commander during two of the most traumatic events in Cumbria's history - the floods of 2009 and the operation launched as gunman Derrick Bird carried out his killing spree in west Cumbria.

Mr Graham was also a vocal critic of moves to slash the county's crimefighting budget by millions of pounds, backing CN Group's campaign against the scale of the cuts.

These cutbacks never materialised after the Government shelved the moves.

Mr Graham said: "Having completed over 32 years policing service, I have made the personal decision to retire one year earlier than planned.

"This decision hasn’t been easy, however for personal and health reasons I believe this to be the right time for me and my family.

"My retirement date is still to be confirmed with Peter McCall (the county's crime commissioner), however this will be no later than March 31."

Mr Graham joined Cumbria Police in 2009 as assistant chief constable, before being promoted to deputy chief in 2014.

He took on the top role the same year.

Mr Graham added: "During the next few months I will continue to focus upon day business, leading the constabulary and working with our partners to serve and protect the communities of Cumbria."

Launching his search for a new top officer, Mr McCall said he was looking for an exceptional individual to lead the force.

He also paid tribute to the work of Mr Graham.

Mr McCall said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chief
Peter McCall Constable Jerry Graham for his years of outstanding dedicated service to policing in Cumbria.

"I fully accept and understand Chief Constable Graham’s decision to retire and wish him well for the future.

“Today, Cumbria is a top performing force and this is very much supported by the independent policing inspectorate.

"As a commissioner, I am fully committed to making Cumbria even safer and I am looking for a chief constable who shares this ambition and passion to join the excellent team here in Cumbria."

He added: "Policing is constantly evolving.

"It is crucial that the new chief constable gets the right balance in supporting policing our neighbourhoods but at the same time ensuring that we are all protected from the growing threat of cybercrime.

"All this at the same time as delivering significant structural change against a challenging financial picture."

Who is Jerry Graham?

Mr Graham joined the police service in 1985, working in a variety of uniform and CID roles with Lancashire Constabulary.

He rose through the ranks and was a superintendent by the mid-2000s.

In February 2006, he undertook a spell with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, taking command of a policing division in Belfast.

Mr Graham transferred to Cumbria Police in June 2009.

He has also performed national and regional roles.

Mr Graham is currently the chairman of the North West Police Benevolent Fund.

It supports serving and retired officers, along with their families, who may find themselves in times of need, hardship or distress.

Who are Cumbria's other police chiefs - and could they be in line to replace him?

  • Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Skeer is the county's second most
    Michelle Skeer senior officer - and has previously performed the role of chief constable in an acting capacity.

Mr Graham's retirement could offer the opportunity for a further promotion for Carlisle-born Mrs Skeer - to the pinnacle of policing in Cumbria.

She soared through the ranks, having previously held roles including detective inspector in the city, working as the head of Carlisle CID and overseeing specialist units such as special branch.

  • Assistant Chief Constable Mark Webster is a recent recruit to the county
    Mark Webster force.
  • He joined in July, transferring from the National Crime Agency, where he was director of intelligence and operations.

He has been the lead officer for several national campaigns focussing on protecting victims of child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, firearms supply and cybercrime.