Police ‘must not be part of Sheffield tree-felling operations’, chief told

Police watch as trees are felled in Rustlings Road.
Police watch as trees are felled in Rustlings Road.
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South Yorkshire Police has been told to ensure officers are never asked to support Sheffield tree-felling operations in the way they did on Rustlings Road.

A hugely-controversial operation last month saw Sheffield Council staff and police officers arrive on the street at 5am to tell residents to move their cars before eight trees were removed.

Protests against the removal of the trees resulted in the arrests of three people, including two pensioners.

A report for the South Yorkshire police commissioner’s office, said police had been asked to attend to ensure ‘public safety’ but ended up knocking on doors to wake up residents due to a lack of staff from the council and its contractor Amey.

In advice to chief constable Stephen Watson, police commissioner Alan Billings said: “South Yorkshire Police must ensure that in future, officers are not put in a position where they can be drawn into an operation of this kind and appear to be part of it.”

He also revealed he had been kept in the dark about the operation, which was secretly planned between Sheffield Council, Amey and the police over a month before it took place on November 17.

Dr Billings said: “One way of preventing this [happening again] is to ensure that the PCC is informed in advance where operational matters are likely to impact on the public so that advice can be given. Part of the role of the PCC is to reflect the views and feelings of the public to the force in order to avoid situations such as this.

“In this case, the PCC would have immediately sought a meeting with council leaders since the likely outcome was not difficult to predict.”

Police and council actions on Rustlings Road prompted Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg to label their behaviour as resulting in scenes ‘you’d expect to see in Putin’s Russia, rather than a Sheffield suburb’. Hundreds of people attended a rally in Endcliffe Park to condemn the operation and the council’s tree-felling policy.