Yorkshire police return hundreds of officers to the beat after losing touch with neighbourhood needs

Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire
Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire
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Hundreds of police officers are being put back onto the beat in Yorkshire after bosses admitted that neglecting neighbourhood policing had left them out of touch with what was going on in their communities.

The Chief Constable of South Yorkshire has revealed to The Yorkshire Post that between 300 and 500 officers will be moved from response teams into locally-based roles focused on problem-solving and engaging with residents.

Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, Stephen Watson. Picture Scott Merrylees

Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, Stephen Watson. Picture Scott Merrylees

Stephen Watson, who took on the job last July, said his predecessors had “taken their eye off the ball” and allowed demand on officers to grow after becoming “too reactive” in the aftermath of the recent series of scandals that rocked the force.

He said this, combined with the effects of austerity cuts, meant that the force’s local presence had been reduced to being largely reliant on Police Community Support Officers, who do not have the power of arrest, with resources concentrated into centralised teams.

Mr Watson’s vision for neighbourhood policing, to be unveiled in full in September, will see hundreds of officers moved from 24/7 response teams, which deal with 999 calls, back into accessible roles in communities.

He said: “They will be responsible for working in your community and giving your community all of their focus as opposed to any other community.

They will be responsible for working in your community and giving your community all of their focus as opposed to any other community.

Stephen Watson describes the role of the local officers

“We have lost that, and as a result of losing that, we have lost the embeddedness of our people in local communities. It is so important we get that back.”

But the local branch of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, fears the force’s loss of 1,100 officers means the new model will not resemble what used to be in place.

Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police has pledged to ‘rebuild’ its neighbourhood policing after the loss of hundreds of officers led to victim satisfaction rates falling, increases in crime and “isolated instances of community tension”.

Both forces were criticised in a recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for allowing their neighbourhood policing functions to deteriorate. The report said the West Yorkshire force “lacks the means to understand its changing and emerging communities”.

The easing of austerity cuts has meant the force is increasing its manpower by 200 this year, 100 of whom will be going into neighbourhood policing roles.