THE chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has revealed he delayed his decision to retire by a year because of the “significant challenges” facing his under-fire force.
David Crompton, 52, whose force faced a public outcry over the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, revealed this week that he is to retire from his £195,000 a year job in November.
In his first public comments since the decision was revealed, Mr Crompton denied that the move was linked to this week’s publication of a report into how his force tackles child grooming across South Yorkshire.
He said: “Having read recent media coverage regarding my retirement later this year, I wanted to correct inaccurate comments about my decision to leave.
“Last year I had served thirty years in policing and was able to retire but I felt leaving in the midst of significant challenges for the force would not have been helpful and so I agreed to serve another year. I will have completed that year in November.
“In January, I agreed with [police and crime commissioner that I would make an announcement about my retirement sometime prior to the PCC elections so that my position would be clear to whoever is successful at the election.
“It is unfortunate that the timing of this reaching the media meant it was linked, by some, to the publication of the Drew Review. In fact, the Drew Review is clear that South Yorkshire Police is making good progress in tackling child sexual exploitation, and this will remain a key priority for me for the next seven months.”
Mr Crompton’s four-year reign as chief has been dogged by controversy with South Yorkshire Police also struggling to cope with the legacy of a troubled history, including the ongoing fresh inquests into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and calls for a public inquiry into police conduct surrounding the so-called ‘Battle of Orgreave’ during the 1984/85 miners’ strike.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings, who extended Mr Crompton’s initial three-year contract by another 18 months last spring, said he had accepted the chief constable’s wish to retire.
He said: “He’s done 31 years and feels the time has come to retire. He was very clear when I saw him. He feels he has done his bit - he’s a relatively young man and there are other things to do in life.”
South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Neil Bowles said Mr Crompton had informed staff associations and unions he would be leaving at a scheduled quarterly meeting earlier this week.
Mr Billings paid tribute to Mr Compton’s service, particularly given the weight of difficult issues the force has had to deal with.
He said: “It’s a very pressurised job, probably one of the most pressurised of jobs in the country so I don’t blame him for going.
“The unique thing about South Yorkshire Police is that we’ve had all the challenges other forces are coping with in relation to austerity and balancing the books but we’ve also had not one but a number of high profile, very emotive issues that have had to be dealt with.
“Many would have buckled under the strain of just one of these but to carry on with the strain of all these things has been quite a challenge.
“All credit to the chief constable that he has remained strong throughout that time when a lot of people would have simply given up and walked away.”
Liberal Democrat Lord Paul Scriven, who had called for Mr Crompton’s resignation, said: “I’m glad David Crompton is finally going, although i’m disappointed that it is under his own terms and he is retiring, rather than being ousted by the people of South Yorkshire as he rightly should have been.
“The PCC has been complacent in allowing him to continue in post during this time as under his watch progress in South Yorkshire Police has not been made fast enough.
“What matters now is getting the right person in the job so South Yorkshire Police can move forwards and I’m not confident that Alan Billings is the man to do that.”
The most damaging of all the controversial issues to hit the force during the Crompton era was the child grooming scandal in Rotherham. The revelation in a 2014 landmark report by Professor Alexis Jay that at least 1,400 children had been subjected to sexual abuse between 1997 and 2013 with virtual impunity severely undermined public confidence in the force.
Although most of the abuse occurred before Mr Crompton became chief constable in April 2012, South Yorkshire Police has continued to face criticism for its response to the scandal. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found “serious concerns” over the force’s approach to protecting children during an inspection in 2014, shortly after the publication of the Jay Report, and last year found major improvements were still needed, though HMIC did acknowledge there were “tangible signs” of progress.
An independent report into the force’s handling of child sexual exploitation published today, produced by Professor John Drew, said there had been improvements but added there was still work to be done.
Mr Crompton also faced direct personal criticism over how police co-operated with the BBC when officers raided the home of Sir Cliff Richard in August 2014 in connection with allegations of child abuse, which the singer strenuously denies.
At a hearing of the home affairs select committee in September 2014, chairman Keith Vaz MP told Mr Crompton that his force had shown “a gross lack of competence” by agreeing to ‘tip-off’ the BBC about the raid, which led to extensive live coverage, and criticised the chief constable for not approaching the BBC at a senior level to try to stop the story running.
Mr Crompton told the committee he believed staff had little option but to work with the BBC after being approached with information about the inquiry by a reporter and not doing so could have compromised the investigation.
Mr Crompton joined the police in 1985, rising through the ranks with Greater Manchester Police to become a chief superintendent. He became assistant chief constable with West Yorkshire Police in 2004 and subsequently deputy chief constable in 2008 before taking the top job in South Yorkshire in 2012.
The process for appointing a new chief constable will not begin until after May’s election for the position of police and crime commissioner.