‘I’ve got the right man to improve the force’

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield

PCC says that he believes Chief Constable will restore damaged reputation of police

New Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings has backed South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton to restore faith in his under-fire force.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield

Dr Billings, who was elected into the £85,000-a-year post last week, revealed he had met the county’s most senior ranking police officer and was confident he was the right man to improve the force, which has been hit by a series of scandals over recent months.

With inquiries under way into police conduct around the Hillsborough football disaster, clashes between striking miners and police officers at Orgreave and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Dr Billings said he believes the Chief Constable will restore his police force’s damaged reputation.

“Having met the Chief Constable twice and with more meetings planned on Friday, I think the Chief Constable is determined to get to the bottom of these issues and to ensure that the force learns lessons and does the right thing, which includes training and re-training,” he said.

“There is a generation of younger officers who have joined the force more recently who are shocked and do not want to think of the force in that way and want a fresh start. We are all talking about new beginnings and fresh starts and I think the Chief Constable will be able to do this job.”

But Dr Billings said he has not yet made any decisions about the future of the rest of the police force’s senior command team – those with responsibility for running the force.

“I have not yet met the rest of the senior command team,” he said.

“I strongly believe you should not prejudge people so I will have to meet people and listen to what they have to say.”

He said he expects the Chief Constable to take action against any officers found in the wrong over Hillsborough, Orgreave or Rotherham.

“There will be some officers subject to various disciplinary matters and that is a matter for the Chief Constable. My job is to ensure he is doing that and I don’t think we should underestimate the seriousness of any of this,” he added. “There has been some poor conduct on the part of the police in the past and the first thing I have to demand is that it is in the past.”

Dr Billings said high visibility policing is a ‘critical factor in people feeling safe’ and he aims to ‘hold the frontline’ despite dwindling police officer numbers and a reducing budget.

“People do feel safe when they see police officers around – both warranted and Police Community Support Officers, who play a crucial role,” he said.

“But it is having people who know local police officers which I think is very important as opposed to those who just come into an area to respond to a 999 call.

“Officers have new technology now, handheld computers, meaning they can spend more time in communities without having to go back to police stations.

“And although people are often reassured by having a police station, a lot are hardly fit for purpose because they are old, so I am asking whether we need to have police stations or are there any other ways in which we can provide a police presence by sharing buildings such as libraries? If we have some fresh thinking and a lot of innovation we may be able to hold the frontline even though police officer numbers are going down and the pressures are huge.”

Dr Billings said his job is to hold South Yorkshire Police ‘to account’ and to ensure reports and inquiries into Hillsborough, Orgreave and Rotherham are ‘followed through’.

He said he wants the police force to concentrate on tacking all sexual offences, anti-social behaviour, cyber and business crime and terrorism and violent extremism. Dr Billings said he has met the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, to find out about issues of concern.

The PCC said he was ‘very excited’ about taking up the new role but admitted it was a ‘daunting’ task.

“The area is so vast, the population is huge and therefore the issues are diverse and differ from place to place. It is going to take some time getting to know the things that really cause people concern in the different places but I am determined to do it.”