Hero Sheffield police officer who was horrifically injured in chase steps down after more than 30 years
One of Sheffield’s top police officers is retiring after serving on the force for 30 years in a career that has seen him handle everything from burglaries to child sexual exploitation and gang crime.
Rotherham-born Superintendent Paul McCurry joined his home county force in July 1988 when he became a Special Constable at the age of 18. And after having to learn the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ on the job in the face of the unruly he has gone on to serve South Yorkshire Police over the next three-and-a-bit decades.
He had to join the Specials due to his lean physique. At that time, you had to weigh 10-and-a-half stone to be accepted into the force, but Paul tipped the scales at a sprightly nine stone and three quarters.
“I probably had more scrapes back then than I did when I joined the regulars because I was young, I was daft and I was naïve, Paul said. “But, I got stuck in and made lots of arrests, which meant I got to write reports and produce evidence, which was given in court many times. I was proud that as a volunteer I was doing that. It was a tremendous achievement.”
He also learnt that policing can follow you home too, recalling a time he was getting ready for bed when he heard a noise outside. Peeking out the window, he noticed somebody trying to enter a property opposite and headed out to deal with the situation, helping to arrest a wanted burglar.
“That cleared up 25 burglaries and a significant amount of jewellery was recovered from his address,” Paul recalls.
He joined the regular force on 13 January 1992 – once he had successfully ‘beefed up’ after being told to “drink lots of Guinness” - and was posted to Goldthorpe in Barnsley.
“I remember joining and it was a day shift,” Paul remembers. “The cleaner used to cook a breakfast for the whole shift on duty and that was a time you came together and felt you were part of something.
“You were part of a team – a very strong team. And I was told they would look after me and look out for me. I was proud to properly join South Yorkshire Police."
Paul then moved across to Wombwell, and would spend a chunk of his career in roads policing and doing stints in the former drugs unit at Wombwell and in CID.
Paul then turned towards helping others following his footsteps into the force. He got an interview and landed a full time role at the force training centre in Ecclesfield. He would later train new officers up in Durham, before moving back down to Barnsley where he remained until 2006.
“I had a great team,” Paul adds. “One day I was chasing a criminal and I don’t know if I slipped or I was pushed but I ended up sliding across some gravel and taking all the skin off both arms.
“Somebody said to me I looked like something out of Terminator! I was treated at hospital and returned to the station where I was met at the front gate with a wheelchair and I was awarded a Purple Heart.”
In 2006 he was promoted to Inspector, where among other things he helped design the station at Kendray, and moved across to Sheffield.
In Sheffield he switched to gang crime, where he worked as an Inspector. This involved setting up local processes to tackle gang crime, which followed the murder of 16-year-old Sheffield schoolboy Jonathan Matondo in 2008.
He worked a lot around violent crime, including hosting a visit alongside then-local MP David Blunkett for the then-Home Secretary Alan Johnson in 2009 to view their work. He became a peer reviewer for the Home Office and would travel with his team to see how other forces were tackling similar issues.
He said: “I think we helped make Sheffield no longer one of the most significant places in the country for gun and knife crime.
“It was a true partnership effort between the police, the community, the council and the NHS to make Sheffield a safer place and eradicate these sorts of offences.”
As with any career, the highs were also interspersed with more challenging times. Paul was promoted to Superintendent in 2013 which saw him posted to Rotherham.
After Paul moved to Rotherham to serves as superintendant in 2013 The Jay Report – the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham – was published and which brought “immense pressure” trying to appease public opinion which was showcased through demonstrations.
“It was challenging for the staff and it was challenging for me,” he remembers. “We were trying to drive performance and deliver a service to the people of Rotherham amid this and after three years it did start to take its toll on me.
“I was doing nothing else except policing and there was no release mechanism for me. I started to have a very difficult period.
“I still loved it, but I wasn’t the same person. I felt so tired in those years. In 2019 I got to a point I wasn’t sleeping and I felt really strange.”
He was diagnosed with “significantly” high blood pressure after it got to the point Paul’s wife insisted he seek medical advice and take a period of sickness leave.
“That was the loneliest place I had been,” he recalls. “But I received a great support from people. I got through it but it changed my outlook a bit on life.”
After a short period of time Paul moved across to be Superintendent in his “dream job” – overseeing the Operational Support Unit which encompasses roads policing, firearms, dogs, the mounted unit, and other teams.
It’s where he has served until his retirement. Paul’s next step also keeps to his training theme as he will now be joining Salford University as a police lecturer.