South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has branded the force’s decision to publish details of an awards ceremony praising Rotherham police officers on social media as ‘misguided’.
Dr Alan Billings said he had ‘very little sympathy’ after a report of the ceremony, on the force’s official Facebook page, attracted a barrage of criticism.
The ceremony was held at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium just 16 days after South Yorkshire Police were criticised in a new report into child sexual exploitation in the town.
The Facebook post, which featured details of those recognised and a photograph, attracted widespread criticism from many of the 190 comments posted.
Dr Billings, who attended the ceremony, said: “I didn’t even know they were going to put it on Facebook. I have very little sympathy.
“I can completely understand the reaction.”
If someone asked me for my advice I would have advised against that. I think it’s probably misguided to put it on Facebook.Dr Alan Billings
“If someone asked me for my advice I would have advised against that.
“I think it’s probably misguided to put it on Facebook.”
Rotherham East councillor Emma Wallis also reacted to police tweets about the awards. She said on Twitter: “An award ceremony for Rotherham cops at NYS? Whilst rapists still stalk our streets? #Couldn’t make it up.”
The awards recognised officers working in the town and more than 10 were recognised for going ‘above and beyond the call of duty’.
Dr Billings said: “I did go and talk to the district commander and the team before the awards and they did wrestle with the decision to hold it or not and they decided they would go ahead.”
Chief Supt Jason Harwin, Rotherham district commander said the force ‘recognise that people must be held to account’ over the Rotherham scandal but added: “We also need to recognise when people do a good job and promote the exceptional work that takes place every day.
“The awards are a great way to recognise the dedication and commitment of our officers, staff and members of the community, who work tirelessly to make Rotherham a safer place.”
The ceremony was held 16 days after the publication of the Casey report, which blew the lid off the abuse scandal once again saying not enough had been done by Rotherham Council and the police to tackle the issue of child sex exploitation since publication of the damning Jay report last year.
The Casey report said of South Yorkshire Police: “The police’s historic attitude towards, and treatment of, victims has been unacceptable.
“Inspectors are concerned that this attitude continues in the police to this day, with treatment of current victims remaining at an unacceptably low standard.”
Though some comments backed the police, many were critical.
One comment on the Facebook post said: “Abuse scandal clearly a distant memory already!
“But then I suppose it’s easy to forget something you’ve spent years ignoring anyway! You ought to be ashamed! Disgusting.”
Another added: “Really bad timing considering how incompetent they are over child grooming.”
Dr Billings said the mood of the event at Rotherham’s New York Stadium, was ‘sober and restrained’ and several mentions of the need to improve on child abuse were made on the night.
STAR EDITOR’S OPINION: Credit the good cops