Wednesday Retro: Stretching thin blue line

Police - Bicycles'May 1982'South Yorkshire Police
Police - Bicycles'May 1982'South Yorkshire Police
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The police are much in the news at the moment with cuts in their budgets being linked to rises in crime figures and announcements that officers will have to cover more work.

In June 1978 The Star reported that “the thin blue line is stretched to breaking point” with all areas 10 to 12 per cent under strength.

Wpc Denise Roberts (31), first female traffic cop pictured with her patrol car.'23rd May 1990

Wpc Denise Roberts (31), first female traffic cop pictured with her patrol car.'23rd May 1990

The authorised number of police then was 2,752 but the actual number was 265 short of that and the problem then was recruitment, not cuts.

The number of women in the ranks had grown to 8.7 per cent of the total.

Police Federation secretary Pc Paul Middup said: “There is more and more work for policemen and women to do. It will get to the stage where they can’t handle it.”

Back in 1965, two years before the South Yorkshire police force was created by a merger, the Rotherham force was “woefully short” of Pcs.

Pc Alan Seedhouse - South Yorkshire Police : Sheffield Division'July 1986

Pc Alan Seedhouse - South Yorkshire Police : Sheffield Division'July 1986

The chief constable blamed recruitment problems on the fact people could earn more as shift workers.

The current force numbers will drop to 2,697 by next March, taking it to practically the same level as 1978.

In July 1978 the Chief Constable Stanley Barratt kicked off a row with Labour members of South Yorkshire County Council.

He was infuriated that a working party had been set up to study relations between the police and public, accusing them of having “ideological or subversive motives”.

A Sheffield City Police Constable on point duty in the city centre - 17th August 1961

A Sheffield City Police Constable on point duty in the city centre - 17th August 1961

The row broke out in the wake of allegations of police misconduct.

An extraordinary dispute then blew up over a call for a police-controlled road crossing in Barnsley which was more about who was in charge of the force, the chief constable or councillors.

This is interesting in the light of the by-election for a new Police and Crime Commissioner following the resignation of Shaun Wright over the Rotherham scandal.

The commissioner’s job is to hold the police to account on behalf of the public now.

Back in 1963 there was no commissioner to deal with the sensational case of officers rhino whipping, truncheoning and beating up three suspects in the CID headquarters in Water Lane.

A police tribunal that heard the appeals of two members of the special crimes squad against their dismissal for their role in the assaults gripped the city for 12 days that September. Retro looked at the issue in depth last November.

The reports still make shocking reading, revealing that violence against suspects was encouraged and then covered up by senior officers.