IT is this question, posed by law-abiding Sheffield residents, that goes to the core of misgivings about the number of police being deployed to enable council contractor Amey to continue the demolition of trees in the city: how, they want to know, can South Yorkshire Police justify sending 33 uniformed officers to one suburban street to support 20 security officers when it does not routinely despatch patrols to reports of break-ins and vandalism?
This is the thrust of the hard-hitting letter that former council leader Paul Scriven, now a Lib Dem peer, has written to Stephen Watson, the force’s Chief Constable, in which he seeks a full explanation for a Draconian response which appears unsustainable, heavy-handed and out of proportion with the scale of any threat posed to the wider public.
The protesters are not battle-hardened criminals. Far from it. They’re public-spirited citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest because of the contemptible manner in which their views have been ignored by those councillors presiding over the wanton destruction of the local environment.
At a time when Mr Watson is tasked with winning back eroded public trust after the South Yorkshire force was brought into national disrepute by a succession of scandals, residents deserve a full explanation of the police tactics, the cost to the public purse and, in light of past events, reassurances that all policing protocols have been correctly followed. Even better would be Sheffield Council halting the destruction of all trees until an independent policy appraisal has been carried out.