Commissioner hails 'astonishing' progress of troubled South Yorkshire Police, which was branded failing two years ago

Alan Billings
Alan Billings

A TROUBLED police force which has moved out of so-called ‘special measures’ after a series of improvements over the last two years has made “astonishing” progress, according to the area’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

South Yorkshire Police had been under extra scrutiny by concerned inspectors since 2016, an arrangement which was lifted last week.

Commissioner Alan Billings said he expected South Yorkshire Police to be rated good by inspectors in the coming months, “whereas before they were getting inadequates”, but said it would be tempting fate to say the force’s difficulties were now behind it.

He said: “One thing doing this job has taught me is you can’t predict what is coming around the corner in policing, but all the signs are good.”

Dr Billings, who was first elected in 2014, said the results of a peer review by officers from other forces in 2016 had been “startling and shocking”, and had revealed that many key members of staff had been made redundant.

He said: “There was just so much work that had to be done to get the force into a good position.”

The force’s new Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, had been tasked with turning its fortunes around, he said, and had delivered in a very short time.

Mr Watson said: "This represents an important turning point for the force. Much remains to be done, but we are confidently on track in our determination to improve further still in providing the best possible service to our public.

"We are now actively seeking ways to increase the numbers of police officers on our streets, despite ongoing financial pressures, having demonstrated how rapidly these improvements have taken hold.

"South Yorkshire Police will increase the numbers of police officers for the first time since 2010 and we will be recruiting record numbers during 2019."

HM Inspector of Constabulary Phil Gormley said: “I am confident the improvements are sustainable, and that the current momentum will be maintained. I look forward to seeing further improvements across the force.”

The force has been hit with a number of significant scandals over the decades.

It continues to face large costs each year associated with civil claims arising from both the Hillsborough disaster and the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham.