‘COMMS is key. Really, really key because I don’t want things to get messy.’
That was the missive given by Supt Paul McCurry – revealed today by The Yorkshire Post as part of our ongoing investigation into the Sheffield trees scandal – as he triangulated a shared message between South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield City Council and highways contractor Amey as they – together – went about expunging street trees from Sheffield’s skyline.
Despite repeated protestations by the Force to the contrary, our investigation proves that South Yorkshire Police lost sight of its impartiality during the protracted saga, and in fact took a lead on concocting a joint strategic approach which saw scores of police officers repeatedly deployed to help drive through the systematic and often needless destruction of thousands of roadside trees across the city.
And therein lies the fundamental rot which has seen the Sheffield establishment – not its residents who are quite rightly proud to call the Steel City home – disgraced nationally and internationally as a ‘rotten borough.’
Focusing on getting the story straight rather than executing on the mission to the utmost professional standards has been an habitual preoccupation of what is one of the country’s most embattled police forces. This newspaper need not reel off the charge sheet against the force’s top brass over the years, but it is incredulous that today’s leadership team has seemingly learnt nothing from past mistakes.
Had Supt McCurry and his team made the oath sworn to Her Majesty the Queen the key to planning Operation Quito, as it became known – according to fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality – then perhaps the ‘mess’ of seeing a lady strong-armed off the streets by an officer of the law for simply blowing a child’s toy trumpet in protest at what she saw as the wanton vandalism of her neighbourhood – would not have happened. Perhaps none of this would have happened. Only a full inquiry can now tell us.