New South Yorkshire Police chief promises to make public ‘proud’ of scandal-hit force

Stephen Watson address the South Yorkshire police and crime panel
Stephen Watson address the South Yorkshire police and crime panel

The new chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has promised to make the public proud of the scandal-hit force.

Stephen Watson, who is due to take over the role from November, told a public meeting he intends to bring back a focus on neighbourhood policing as part of attempts to restore the reputation of the beleaguered force.

The current deputy chief constable of Durham Police told the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel: “My passionate desire is to make the people of South Yorkshire proud of their police force.

“I want the officers and staff to feel really proud of a force that is on the way up.”

He said while the workforce does appear ‘somewhat demoralised’, he is encouraged by their determination to do a good job.

Mr Watson is due to replace David Crompton, who was suspended due to his handling of the police’s approach to the Hillsborough inquests and the subsequent verdicts.

The force is facing major IPCC investigations relating to corruption allegations in connection to both Hillsborough and the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, as well as a potential new independent inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave.

He said the force had to learn the lessons of the past to move forward and make sure scandals such as Rotherham ‘never happen again’.

Mr Watson also said he believed mistakes had been made in cutting neighbourhood policing budgets.

Under Mr Crompton’s leadership, £8million was cut from budgets by removing dedicated teams of knowledgeable local officers who dealt specifically with longer-term community issues instead of just responding to crime reports.

Mr Watson said attempting to find savings in those areas was ‘the wrong solution’.

He said: “If you look after the little things, the big things don’t tend to happen where local villains become members of organised crime groups, where people peddling soft drugs today start carrying firearms tomorrow.”