THE temporary chief constable of West Yorkshire Police has vowed to lead the unsettled force away from the Hillsborough allegations that dogged his predecessor Sir Norman Bettison and sparked his resignation last month.
Speaking for the first time since taking up the reins 10 days ago, John Parkinson admitted claims Sir Norman was involved in the South Yorkshire Police cover-up and smear campaign against fans in the wake of the 1989 stadium disaster had become a distraction for the force, but paid tribute to the legacy he had left behind.
Mr Parkinson also said the new wave of chief constables set to take over permanently in three of the four Yorkshire forces presented a strong opportunity for the region.
“There is no question Sir Norman, in his time as chief constable, made a big difference in West Yorkshire Police,” said Mr Parkinson, who joined the force as a cadet in October 1979 and has worked through every rank, including most recently being appointed deputy chief constable earlier this year.
“What is important is he made the decision and felt the time had come to leave the force when he did.
“He realised the story was about him and not about West Yorkshire Police.
“Sir Norman felt it was the right thing to do for the force and the important thing is now the force continues to build on his legacy in increasing public confidence and reducing crime. My job is to build on that.
“Of course we discussed the matter and the leadership of the force is something that is paramount in both our minds.
“The leadership of the force was discussed, but ultimately he made that decision knowing there was a growing risk the force was becoming distracted by the issue rather than getting on with the job.
“It was the headline news and therefore it was inevitable.
“If the subject of discussion on everybody’s minds is not about the job we are here to do, it is inevitably going to be a distraction.”
As revealed by the Yorkshire Post yesterday, there are currently 10 temporary chiefs in charge nationwide, including West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cleveland Police, owing to a Government ban on making permanent appointments in the run up to next week’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections.
The unprecedented situation has sparked concern new crime commissioners will create a power vacuum while struggling with a lack of a mandate due to the predicted low turn-out.
However Mr Parkinson says he welcomes the opportunity the incoming crime commissioners present.
“On a local level it is really important to do the things that people want us to do,” he said.
“People look to me and the chief officers for leadership and I think we provide that.
“The incoming PCC will help provide that link between the public and the force to ensure we do the things that matter the most to the public.”
During his 33 years in West Yorkshire Police, Mr Parkinson has worked in every geographical area of the force and in 2005 was appointed senior officer investigating the London bombings.
Nationally, he has been a recognised lead in counter-terrorism.
“When I walked through the doors of West Yorkshire Police in 1979 I never thought of becoming the chief constable,” he said.
“I have served under seven chief constables and the thought of one day joining that list was a very far and distant thought.
“But this is the reality and there is no time for me to day dream about that.
“For me, I have a very simple view of policing because this is what the public expect.
“I want us to focus on cutting crime, keeping people safe and convicting offenders.”