'I arrested a boy aged 10 for driving bulldozer over car' reveals retiring Doncaster police chief

The suspect was aged 10. His crime? He had driven over a car with a bulldozer on the streets of South Yorkshire.

By David Kessen
Monday, 14th September 2020, 7:00 am

Police were called, and a young constable, named Sharon Hancock attended the incident.

She said: “It was a young lad aged 10. He wore big trousers held up with a kilt pin. I felt sorry for him. He’d started a bulldozer and driven over a car. It did a lot of damage.”

The youngster was arrested. He was the first of many people to be ‘nicked’ by an officer who rose to the rank of chief inspector – and is now due to retire from the South Yorkshire force after 30 years.

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Ch Insp Sharon Hancock

First joining the police in February 1991, Ch Insp Hancock is now chief inspector for operations in Doncaster.

She started her time in the force in Barnsley, and went on to work in the serious child abuse unit which served Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.

From there, she went on to be a detective in Wombwell, before being promoted to sergeant in Barnsley, before becoming a detective inspector, and then the chief inspector in charge of crime training for South Yorkshire and Humberside, based at Wath.

Three years ago, she went back into uniform, for her current Doncaster role.

Residents on Yarborough Terrace in Doncaster are rescued from their homes as flood waters rise in the area following heavy rain

In 30 years, she has seen big changes. When she first started, it was not unknown for an officer to be trying to find a lost dog.

She said: “That is something I don’t think the public could imagine us doing now. We used to get sent on jobs that now we don’t have the capacity to do because of increases in demand.

"When I first joined, you had to walk the streets for two years before you were allowed to get into a police car, so you soon got to know how to communicate. We seemed accessible, but demand is so high now.”

Other changes have come through technology.

"Everything is now electronic,” said Ch Insp Hancock. “There was no such thing as a mobile phone in 1991. You would have to use a phone box. Now we have to deal with internet crime, cyber crime and social media trolls. The jobs are a world apart.

"Demand has grown. I think we are called more because you can contact us now through the internet as well as on the phone. But we want people to report things, because we can’t do anything if we don’t know what’s happening.

"I think electronic crime is the biggest change. It didn’t even exist in 1991. It seemed exciting when we got pagers. But cyber crime is now massive all over the world.

"The key is how you find where it comes from, and we have some very clever people who are tackling it.”

Many years after her time working with vulnerable children, Ch Insp Hancock has frequently been recognised and sees people who she helped, who still remember her for what she did for them.

She said there have been people who she helped when they were as young as five, who have still recognised her many years on.

"I’ve had thanks from people who still remember me,” she said. “When they start talking to me, I remember them too, and it is really moving that people remember you because you made a positive impact on their lives. I joined the police to make a difference, and when that happens you feel you have done."

She feels officers in Doncaster do a good job in a vast district, and feels they have a good understanding of what the public want from them and what types of crime are going on here.

"I’ve been in the job for 30 years, and the staff and officers here are the hardest working I’ve known," she said.

She looks back on last year’s floods as one of the most inspirational periods in her job, because of the way people rallied round to help one another in the face of adversity.

"The floods last year saw Doncaster at its best,” she said.

"People came together. There were partnerships with NHS and the Environment Agency, as well as the involvement of ordinary people. It was a privilege to work with them.

"That community response just seemed to happen overnight. There was an army of people, specialists and the community, helping in droves. Everyone wanted to do something – pubs, residents, volunteers, the press, all services. It was the best example I’ve ever seen of a community coming together.”

She feels her last year in the police has been like no other, with the floods and now the coronavirus, which has put new pressures on officers, who have turned out to deal with incidents regardless of the public health crisis around them.

"Every house they go to, there is potential that they could be exposed to Covid 19,” she said. “There have even been people spitting at police, but officers have held it together.”

Since that first arrest involving the bulldozer, there have been many more complicated cases. Her team worked on the conviction in 2002 of a man who was jailed for life for killing Shane Collier, an investigation which was featured on a television documentary, Watching the Detectives

She also remembers how her team once found two neglected children who were malnourished to the point they were close to death. They were brought back to health after the police became involved.

"I’ve really enjoyed being able to make a difference to people’s lives,” said Ch Insp Hancock. It’s been a privilege.”

Even now she has retired, her family will retain an interest in the police. Ch Insp Hancock’s niece is now an officer – and by co-incidence has the same collar number her aunt received in 1991.

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