Police chief vows new approach to ‘too many criminals getting away with it’

·2-min read
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson (GMP/PA) (PA Media)
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson (GMP/PA) (PA Media)

The new Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) promised to get tough on crime and blamed a “failure of senior leadership” as he outlined his plans to turn around the crisis-hit, failing force.

In a marked change of tone, Stephen Watson pledged a new approach to “too many criminals, frankly, getting away with it”.

He said the force will now investigate every crime, pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, and open more cell capacity.

Mr Watson promised many more arrests with “surge activity” to fight crime, including “dialled-up muscularity” and “real ferocity” in tackling organised crime gangs.

“We will take your cars and we will take your cash and we will take your houses,” he said.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham spoke of a culture of ‘defeatism’ at GMP which had been in place for 20 years (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham spoke of a culture of ‘defeatism’ at GMP which had been in place for 20 years (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Watson presented his plans to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham at a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on Friday.

The former chief constable of South Yorkshire Police was appointed to the GMP role after the force was put in special measures by police watchdogs following a damning report last December.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) revealed that the force had failed to record 80,000 crimes.

Then chief constable Ian Hopkins, who had held the top job at GMP since 2015, stepped down after Mr Burnham came under pressure to sack him.

GMP, the second largest force in England and Wales, has been hit by a series of scandals, hundreds of staff have transferred to other forces, and rank-and-file morale is at rock-bottom.

The new chief was tasked with coming up with a plan, urgently, to turn the force around.

He told the combined authority, made up of councillors from the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, of the “pockets of crisis” in the force as he outlined his turnaround plan.

I have no doubt that our people are equal to the challenge. What has kept our people from delivering, as they want to do, has been a failure of senior leadership

Stephen Watson, Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police

Mr Watson, who has made a series of appointments in HQ command from outside the current leadership of GMP, cited issues of senior leadership, strategic clarity and poor morale among the 6,800 staff, but promised to implement his new plan at pace.

He added: “I have no doubt that our people are equal to the challenge. What has kept our people from delivering, as they want to do, has been a failure of senior leadership.

“And that’s what we’re here to do.

“Our people are fed up but they are not defeated. They are fed up of GMP being slapped about, because of our own poor performance.”

Mr Burnham spoke of a culture of “defeatism” at GMP which had been in place for 20 years.

He said the mayor and police chief had “faced up” to all the problems, pledged greater scrutiny and oversight of the force, and promised a “new era” for GMP.

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