Calls for more bobbies on the beat to restore confidence in South Yorkshire Police

Police officers on patrol
Police officers on patrol
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More bobbies on the beat are needed to restore confidence in South Yorkshire Police, according to the union which represents the rank and file.

Police Federation chairman Zuleika Payne spoke out after the results of a survey revealed a lack of confidence in South Yorkshire Police.

The survey, commissioned by Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, to help him prepare his Police and Crime Plan, found that out of 736 people who completed it, half admitted lacking confidence in the force as a whole and 350 said they lacked confidence in local policing.

The child sexual exploitation scandal was one of the reasons given for the lack of confidence by 462 people questioned.

A report published in 2014 revealed that 1,400 children were abused by men of largely Pakistani heritage while authorities, including South Yorkshire Police, failed to act.

They survey also revealed that the Hillsborough Disaster and Battle of Orgreave had knocked confidence.

Ms Payne said: "The survey was intended to inform the Police and Crime plan, but what has changed since? The arrival of a new Chief Constable Stephen Watson and a complete refresh of the Senior Leadership Group, thus enabling the organisation to establish its management structure. However, what will be crucial if we are to restore trust and confidence, is increasing the presence and visibility of frontline police officers - more bobbies on the beat.

"Sadly, many of the sentiments in the recent survey refer to legacy issues. Issues which had to be revisited and the learning taken from them. Constant criticism of the organisation and comparing policing now to policing back then, does not serve us well, this is about learning not blaming. Day in day out, men and women police our communities with a dogged determination to do a fine job, this should never be overlooked.

"The learning from legacy issues has meant we have become more risk averse, policing is more complex and involved than it ever was before, all this to be carried out by a workforce that has lost a third of its officers.

"Protracted enquiries mean that officers are often late finishing their tour of duty, weekly leave is often cancelled and meal breaks are all too often missed. Fewer officers absorbing more work means that they rapidly become exhausted, many experiencing burn-out. Increased sickness levels mean that those who remain in the work place have to absorb more work and so the spiral continues.

"It is also important to bear in mind that many of the officers in the force today, were not serving at the time of the Hillsborough disaster or the incident at Orgreave, in fact some of them weren't even born. Sadly it is the negativity which is more widespread than the positive good news stories.

"The survey goes on to explore how trust and confidence could be improved. Many of the mechanisms that lend themselves to achieving this require engagement, communication and a visible presence. If we are to meet the demands of the public, as the survey highlights, we need to increase the number of frontline officers.”