Michael Dugher MP

Working hard for Barnsley East

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South Yorkshire Times: ‘Time for a change at the top’

The following article appears on the South Yorkshire Times website:

I have nothing but respect for the brave men and women of our police service. 

They do an amazing and difficult job – putting their lives on the line day in, day out – and they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

On top of this, they have had to cope with Government cuts that have seen 8,500 frontline police officers across the country gone since 2010. South Yorkshire Police expect to have lost over 800 police officers and staff by 2015.

When I go out and about with the police in Barnsley, I am always struck by the challenges they face. From taking on drug dealers and violent yobs, to having to act like social workers and surrogate parents, dealing with kids on the streets who should be at home in bed.

But as well as doing their job with total professionalism and dedication to duty, I know that the extraordinary public servants who make up the rank and file of our police service often feel incredibly under-valued.

A survey undertaken by Independent Commission on the Future of Policing found that a massive 95 per cent of serving police officers feel the Government doesn’t support the police.

Labour has called for major reforms to renew British policing for the 21st century.

Labour’s plans also include stronger action for victims, building up neighbourhood policing and giving forces enough money next year to save 1,100 police officers from being cut.

But as well as the need for these changes, I also know that South Yorkshire Police have some difficult issues to deal with about their past. They have rightly been criticised for their conduct at Orgreave and during the Miners’ Strike.

That enormous sense of injustice has not gone away for those of us who lived through that period. Then we had the Hillsborough disaster and, more recently, the failures – along with other authorities and other parts of the ‘system’ – over the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.

That’s why we need a fresh start for South Yorkshire Police. That’s why I was really pleased to hear the former vicar and community champion, Canon Dr Alan Billings – a candidate for the forthcoming police and crime commissioner election – say that we shouldn’t have another politician in the job of commissioner. If we are to learn lessons from the past and see the changes we need for the future, we certainly can’t have a former South Yorkshire Police officer from the 1980s in that job.

Those at the top of South Yorkshire Police have got to face up to the failures of the force in the past – and lessons must be learnt. But it’s also time we gave those serving on the frontline here in South Yorkshire today the respect and support they deserve for the incredible work they do in our communities.

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