Bravery of the police is often overlooked but should be celebrated - Dr Alan Billings

It seems that I am to be the last directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for South Yorkshire.When my term of office ends next May, there will be no further PCCs and policing governance will transition to the South Yorkshire Mayor. This is what the Mayor has asked the government for, what the leaders of the four district authorities support and what the government wants.

In order for this to happen, the government will cancel the next PCC election, bring forward the mayoral election (scheduled for 2026) to 2024, enable the mayor to take on the policing functions and allow him to appoint a deputy mayor to do most of the day to day work.

At the moment only two other parts of the country combine the roles of PCC and mayor in the way being proposed – Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire (London has a different model). In time Fire and Rescue will also be brought under the Mayor.

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Recently, I attended the annual South Yorkshire Police Federation Bravery Awards.

'Recently, I attended the annual South Yorkshire Police Federation Bravery Awards'. PIC: PA'Recently, I attended the annual South Yorkshire Police Federation Bravery Awards'. PIC: PA
'Recently, I attended the annual South Yorkshire Police Federation Bravery Awards'. PIC: PA

Whenever I have been at this event, I have always wished members of the public could be present as well. We hear so much in the media about police behaving badly. This occasion shows the police behaving in ways that go above and beyond what we can reasonably expect of them – acts of courage and bravery that sometimes take your breath away just hearing about them.

So, for example, we heard about a couple of officers who were first on the scene at a blazing house in Doncaster. A fire in an upstairs bedroom was rapidly spreading toxic fumes throughout the building. The officers had to act fast to get the occupants out. They went into the building to help two elderly people. But one was overweight and had mobility problems. He had to be put on a mobility scooter – which didn’t work – in order to move him. And all this had to be done at speed. The officers managed to get them successfully to a place of safety.

We heard about a couple of officers, one of whom was a probationer at the time, who were called to a house where they believed a woman was in danger. The victim came to the door, frightened, saying she had been punched, strangled and raped by a stranger who was still in the building. Eventually he jumped from a roof and ran into the street. One of the officers gave chase. Despite being violently assaulted – which needed hospital treatment – the officer held on to him. By the time the probationary officer found them, both had passed out. But the rapist did not escape.

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I presented awards to eight officers from Barnsley. The incident they were involved in began when two of them were confronted by a man in Barnsley town centre who had a loaded crossbow – a very frightening situation posing real risks to shoppers and pedestrians. They sent for backup. Officers made a shield barrier and forced the offender out of the town centre. He eventually dropped the crossbow, but then climbed over the barrier of a bridge and had to be negotiated to safety, where he was arrested. The bravery of the officers probably saved others from being hurt or worse that day.

This is just a snapshot of what we heard at the Bravery Awards. These are the sorts of things that potentially SYP officers can face any day or night. They have no advance warning. I salute their courage and thank them for what they do.

A shortened version of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire’s latest blog post.