Chief pledges to get South Yorkshire Police 'back to the top'

Chief Constable Stephen Watson
Chief Constable Stephen Watson

South Yorkshire's Chief Constable has pledged to help get the county's police force 'back to the top end of British policing' - despite inspectors calling for improvements to be made.

Chf Con Stephen Watson championed South Yorkshire Police on the day the police watchdog said the force 'requires improvement' in a report which looks at how efficient it is at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies found that that the force needs to improve the way it understands the demands for its services, uses resources and plans for the future.

But HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham said the force has made 'good progress' over the last year in understanding demand and has a new 'operating model' in place.

He said: "Although it was too early to fully assess the benefits of the operating model at the time of the inspection its implementation progressing well and at pace."

The inspector said the force also needs to improve how it plans for the future and makes the savings needed.

"We are pleased with the force’s comprehensive financial planning, however these need to be integrated with other plans to enable the force to be as efficient as it can be,” he added.

Chf Con Watson said he is delighted with the progress the force has made over the last year.

"The report looks at how well we use our resources and while it still shows us as requiring improvement there is an acknowledgement of a force making good progress," he said.

"I want to see the force as recognised as good or above in all its future inspections. I am passionate about seeing the force being recognised as improving and getting back to the top end of British policing as we have the ability and capability to do that."

He said the force's reputation had been knocked by a number of scandals, including the lack of action to address child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, but the force and its leaders now have a clear plan and set of objectives.

"We are now all pulling together on the same end of the rope," he said.

"We have a clear direction of travel and know exactly what we want to achieve, which is looking after vulnerable people, tackling criminality and anti-social behaviour and engaging with communities to show them we are there to protect and help them."

The police chief said there are 'challenges' around funding the police force but he is keen to avoid officer numbers reducing any further.

"We want to meet all our objectives within our means so that means we need to be as effective and efficient as we can in the way we use our resources," he added.

"We are having to find different ways of doing things and we need to use technology better.

"Our officers are already flat out, so it's not about expecting them to do more but we want them to be better equipped so that they can work smarter and get more done in the same time.

"We have a fantastic motivated and committed workforce but it would be wrong to deny that the last couple of years have not been easy. I am proud of everyone for pulling together and trying to get back to winning ways. It is an absolute pleasure to see how officers and staff have responded to what we are doing to put the force back on the front foot."