‘We are extraordinarily proud’ – South Yorkshire Police is most improved force in Britain

South Yorkshire Police has been named the most improved force in the country for the third year running.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 18:01 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 13:51 pm
Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary rated the force as ‘good’ in all areas but outstanding in ethical and lawful behaviour.

The news is the latest milestone along a journey which has seen South Yorkshire Police improve rapidly since 2016.

In an interview shortly after talking the job in 2016, Chief Constable Stephen Watson said he would ‘sack himself’ if they weren’t rated as ‘good’ within two years.

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Speaking earlier this week before today’s press embargo on the report was lifted, Mr Watson said it was ‘great news’.

He said: “We are so pleased. The force was not in a good place in 2016.

“This is the third year on the trot that we are the most improved police force in the country and we are now in the top tier of high performing police forces in the country.

“That is a huge testament to the high quality of people we have and how much we care about the quality of service we provide to people. We are extraordinarily proud.”

Mr Watson paid tribute to his leadership team whose clear plan and sense of mission had allowed the force to perform at such a level.

However, he said that the most important factor in their success was the ‘talented and committed workforce’ they had assembled, all of whom were pulling in the same direction.

And he also hailed the move to neighbourhood policing as key in allowing them to become more proactive as a force, rather than simply reacting to demand.

He said: “I could not be more proud of the men and women of South Yorkshire Police. We know that we are far from perfect and we have lots of things we can improve upon.

“But 2016 was then and this is now. We are now among the top tier of forces and we want to be the outstanding force in the country. That is a realistic opportunity.”

Knife crime remains a key issue for the force, admitted Mr Watson, but said figures show South Yorkshire to be in a better position that many other forces around the UK.

Nevertheless, he said the public should still expect to see ‘robust’ policing on the issue, as well as a more work from the force with its partners on education, rather than just enforcement.

“The recent trends on knife crime in South Yorkshire have been positive and we are bucking the national trend,” he said.

“Stop and search has gone up 400 per cent over the last 12 months and we arrested 1,500 people more in the 12 months to March than we did the previous year.

“But there is also an awful lot of work that is going on the issue with local authorities, health authorities, youth services and education as well.”

And the imminent recruitment of hundreds of extra officers, partly down to the Government’s recent announcement on increased funding, also meant the force would be able to do more than in recent years, said Mr Watson.

“There are areas where we have not had the number of officers we would want,” he said.

“These include protecting vulnerable people, cybercrime and preventing criminals from living off the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains.

“You can only do so much with what you have got and we want to do more. We want to arrest more criminals and bring them to book. Too many get away with crime.

“There has already been a lot of interest in the new roles and around 1,300 applications - and that is just the beginning.

“I would encourage anyone to consider a career in policing. I don’t think there has ever been a better time to join South Yorkshire Police.”