New South Yorkshire police boss pledges to tackle ‘systematic failures’ of force

Alan Billings, South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner.
Alan Billings, South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner.

The new police and crime tsar for the Dearne has vowed to rebuild the public’s trust in South Yorkshire Police by tackling the “systematic failings of the past.”

Canon Dr Alan Billings was sworn in on Monday to become South Yorkshire’s new police and crime commissioner.

He takes office at a time when the South Yorkshire force has faced fierce criticism over the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal, the Hillsborough disaster and the Battle of Orgreave.

Dr Billings vowed: “I will be supportive of the police, the vast majority of whom do fantastic work, but I’ll not be part of their culture.

“My job is to hold them to account, particularly over Rotherham, Hillsborough and Orgreave, to make sure they are learning lessons.”

Dr Billings, a former deputy leader of Sheffield Council who lives in the city, was elected as the Labour candidate, ahead of candidates for the Conservatives, English Democrats and UK Independence Party.

He won with a 50.2 per cent majority - but only 150,361 people from the county’s roughly one million electorate voted.

The by-election cost £1.6 million and was triggered by former commissioner Shaun Wright’s resignation.

Mr Wright quit following the publication of Professor Alexis Jay’s independent report which revealed at least 1400 girls had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 by mostly men of Pakistani heritage. Her report slammed police and council officials, including Mr Wright, who was head of the town’s children’s services for five years during this period, for their failure to act.

In addition, the force is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over officers’ conduct around the Hillsborough Disaster.

The IPCC is also considering wether to probe the actions of South Yorkshire’s officers at the infamous 1984 ‘Battle of Orgreave’, in which police clashed with striking miners.

Dr Billings pledged to: “bring about real change in South Yorkshire Police so that the public’s trust in them can start to be rebuilt” and to “put victims first.”