The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has revealed that former chief constable Sir Norman Bettison would have a case to answer for gross misconduct regarding his dealings with his police authority following the publication of a damning report on the Hillsborough disaster if he was still a serving officer.
Sir Norman, who has always denied any wrongdoing, attempted to influence public perception as the West Yorkshire Police Authority was deciding whether to refer him to the IPCC following the Hillsborough Independent Panel report last year, the commission concluded.
The IPCC said: "While it was evident Sir Norman made no attempt to prevent the referral happening, the IPCC investigation concluded that he attempted to manipulate the public perception of the referral process for his own self-interest.''
The commission said its finding would justify Sir Norman's dismissal if he was still a serving chief constable, while adding that it independently investigated his actions in relation to the process by which complaints about his involvement in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster were referred to the commission.
"The IPCC concluded Sir Norman had a case to answer for discreditable conduct and abuse of authority, breaches which, if proven in a disciplinary hearing, would amount to gross misconduct as they would justify dismissal," the IPCC said in a statement on Thursday.
"However, as Sir Norman left the police service in October 2012 he cannot face a disciplinary hearing in which the evidence could be tested. Instead, the IPCC is publishing its findings for the public to judge.''
However, lawyers for Sir Norman said that the way the IPCC conducted its inquiry "calls into question the fairness of such a process''.
An investigation into Sir Norman's conduct in the period following the 1989 disaster, when he was involved in South Yorkshire Police's inquiry into what happened, is still ongoing.
IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said: "The Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath have become synonymous in the public consciousness with allegations of police attempts to cover up the truth, manipulate messages and deflect blame. Sir Norman is facing investigation in relation to allegations that he played a key part in this.
"We do not pre-judge the findings of that investigation. However, given the effect that those allegations have had on the public perception of him and policing generally, his attempts to manipulate and manage the perception of the referral of complaints about him, for his own self-interest, is particularly concerning. It is also conduct that falls far short of what should be expected of any chief constable.
"It was the IPCC's view at the start of the investigation, as it was the view of his Police Authority, that Sir Norman's actions, if proven, fell so far short of what is expected of a chief constable that dismissal would be justified. The evidence uncovered during the investigation supports that view. While we cannot bring this case to misconduct proceedings, we can publish the evidence and our conclusions, so that the public can judge for themselves. This case should also serve as a salutary reminder to chief officers everywhere of how much public confidence in policing is damaged when the conduct of leaders is called into question.''
Sir Norman resigned from his role as chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police in October, saying it was because the controversy had become a "distraction to policing in West Yorkshire''.
His involvement in the Hillsborough inquiry has provoked a number of allegations and criticism from the families of those who died which has followed him during his career, including a stint as the chief constable of Merseyside.
Following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report last year, Sir Norman was referred to the IPCC over claims that he gave misleading information in the wake of the tragedy and that he tried to influence West Yorkshire Police Authority's decision-making process in relation to the referral.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report