He started life in a two-up, two-down terrace in Sheffield and ended up rubbing shoulders with Tony Blair and the Queen. South Yorkshire’s longest-serving police officer Bob Dyson met crime reporter Claire Lewis for a look back at his career.
IT WAS 1976 and Bob Dyson donned his uniform for the first time, picked up his truncheon and a pair of antiquated handcuffs and responded to his first call as a young bobby on South Yorkshire’s streets.
Some 36 years later, that young bobby is now the county’s deputy chief constable and can still remember the first incident he responded to as though it was yesterday.
But it is hardly surprising – a pair of dismembered legs had been found in the middle of a city street.
But Bob did not have to spend his first day searching for a murderer on the loose in Sheffield.
The legs dumped on Blackstock Road, Gleadless Valley, turned out to be a pair of artificial legs that had been left out for the binmen and placed in the middle of the road as a prank.
He can also remember his first arrest – a man he had to remove from a bus in Intake, Sheffield, for being drunk and disorderly.
Think of any major incident in South Yorkshire over the last three decades and Bob has been there.
He helped police the Miners’ Strike in the mid 1980s, was sent to Liverpool during the Toxteth Riots in 1981 to help boost the police presence on the streets and was in post during the floods of 2007 when rivers burst their banks devastating homes and businesses.
Bob was also on duty in Saturday, April 15, 1989 when 96 football fans died in the Hillsborough disaster.
He recalls: “I was one of the many officers who responded and helped that day.
“I was meeting trains carrying fans and putting them on buses to go to the ground earlier in the day and was on public order duties in the city centre when the call came in and I went to the ground.
“We thought we were dealing with a pitch invasion at first, but once we were inside, we saw what was happening.
“I gave CPR on a fan and played a part in trying to restore order, I also arranged Sheffield Wednesday apprentices to bring water onto the pitch for the fans.
“It was a horrible day and I feel sorry for many, many people – certainly for the families who saw their loved ones go off for a football match never to return. It must be devastating.
“By the same token, there are police officers, ambulance staff and many others whose lives have also been changed as a consequence. It was a sad and horrific event for many, and people who were there will never forget.”
Bob, who officially retires on Friday, October 12, started his life on Upper Valley Road in Meersbrook, where he lived until he was six before his bricklayer father took his family to Melbourne, Australia, for a new life.
And it was there that Bob made it onto the first rung of the policing ladder, when he joined Victoria State Police as a cadet after leaving school.
When his family moved back to South Yorkshire after 10 years, Bob approached his local force to join up, but was told by a desk sergeant: “Come back kid when you are old enough to be a bobby.”
And at 19, that is what he did – after working at a sports shop where he met the woman he went on to marry and have two children with.
He says: “I was never going to do anything else – I was always going to be in the police and I feel fortunate I have spent my working career doing what I loved. Not many people can say that.
“Times have changed so much from when I started – we had a tunic and a truncheon, there was no body armour and if you were lucky enough to have a radio at a football match for example you had one piece to receive and one piece to send. DNA technology hadn’t been thought of when I first joined up and look at what they are doing with science now. Forensic evidence solves most major crimes by putting suspects at scenes. You also walked everywhere. I spent the first 12 months of my career on foot dealing with domestics, pub fights and standing at crime scenes.”
Two-up two-down lad’s rise to the top
WHEN Deputy Chief Constable Bob Dyson, who started his career as PC 2,285, hangs up his helmet for the last time he knows there will be tears.
He was presented with an engraved silver plate by the Pakistan Muslim Centre this week in a ceremony to mark the police chief’s ‘dedication and service to the communities of South Yorkshire’.
Despite the authority afforded to him by his rank, the mild-mannered bobby shuns the spotlight and was overwhelmed when a new training facility – Robert Dyson House – was named after him in 2010 recognition of his service to the force.
He says: “It will be a wrench when I leave – it hasn’t only been my career, but my life and I don’t know what I am going to do with myself – but I am certainly open to offers, I’m not ready to sit at home.
“Having the training facility named after me and being awarded the Queen’s Police Medal were huge honours, but the medal in my eyes was for Team South Yorkshire Police – as a member of a police force we are all in this together, what you do you by no means do alone.
“I am hugely proud of South Yorkshire Police and the part I have played in it – not bad for a lad from a two-up and two-down.”
Meeting Prime Ministers and becoming TV detective drama script editor
Over the years, Deputy Chief Constable Bob Dyson has worked his way up the ranks.
After being a bobby, he was posted into traffic, where he dealt with fatal collisions and had to break the news to relatives that loved ones had died.
Promotions followed that saw Bob working in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster. He also had a two-year stint working for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies.
He joined the Senior Command Team at South Yorkshire Police in 2003 as an Assistant Chief Constable and was appointed Deputy Chief Constable four years later. Last year, he was appointed as temporary chief constable following the retirement of predecessor Med Hughes – becoming the only officer in South Yorkshire to have held every single police force rank.
His efforts over the years were recognised in 2011 when he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal.
Bob’s policing roles have seen him meeting politicians and Prime Ministers, including Tony Blair, over the years. But his insight into policing also proved invaluable to producers of the Dalziel and Pascoe police series on TV, when he was appointed as a script editor.