As devastating failures of the past return to haunt South Yorkshire Police, it is important to note the improvements that the constabulary says it has made and the steadfast determination of Stephen Watson, the current chief constable, to win back the public’s trust.
That said, Mr Watson – who took up his role just over a year ago – will only succeed if he changes his organisation’s culture for the better and convinces senior colleagues to be totally transparent over those historic occurrences when policing fell short of the high standards rightly expected by residents and complainants.
The report into how the force ignored repeated warnings from Joanne Mjadzelics, the ex-girlfriend of Lostprophets rock star Ian Watkins, that he was a dangerous paedophile is a case in point.
Yet, while Watkins was subsequently jailed for 35 years for a string of vile child sex offences including the attempted rape of a fan’s baby, the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s inquiry effectively makes a prima facie case for greater openness.
This is borne out by an email exchange seen by The Yorkshire Post setting out the IPCC’s decision only to publish a summary of the Watkins inquiry and not the full report. Has it learned nothing from previous scandals?
Presumably this is because the police are deeply embarrassed by the conduct of three officers in Doncaster who appear to have been totally disrespectful to Ms Mjadzelic, and whose actions now tarnishes the reputation of every serving officer.
It does not end here. Even though it was concluded that the triumvirate had a case to answer for alleged gross misconduct over their inaction, they can’t be disciplined because they have subsequently retired because of their long service.
As countless other misconduct cases involving the police, NHS and other bodies have demonstrated, former public-sector staff should not be exempt from such scrutiny. Justice demands that they’re held to account. If this requires the law to be changed, so be it, but it’s essential if South Yorkshire Police’s necessary reforms are to command the public’s confidence.