We all have a fundamental right to feel safe in our own homes, in our workplaces, on public transport and on our streets. Key to this are our police. As a society, we allow them to use proportionate force and to take freedoms from individuals who are impacting on the freedoms and security of others. In exchange, we expect them to do what they can to keep crime low and – where there is crime – to investigate and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Throughout, we expect them to act professionally and with respect – particularly towards victims of crime.
This is, of course, not an easy job. Our police officers are thrown into high-pressured situations on a daily basis, having to make split-second decisions that can have very serious consequences. On top of this, over the past decade, they have been chronically underfunded and overstretched as a result of cuts by the Tory Government. As our population has grown, the number of police has been slashed and cuts do have consequences.
With all this in mind, we should still hold our police forces to the very highest standards – and I know that the police themselves feel the same. Unfortunately, in recent years, Greater Manchester Police have not always met these standards. Whilst individual police officers are doing an amazing job in very difficult circumstances, the force as a whole has not been providing the people our city-region with the service that we need and expect.
This is why, in December, the force was placed in special measures after a report found that GMP was failing to record one fifth of reported crimes. As an MP, I have had a number of victims contact me about feeling ignored and that is totally unacceptable.
Thankfully though, GMP is now heading into a new era as a new Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, has been appointed. Chief Constable Watson has an impressive record in police leadership, including in London, Durham and South Yorkshire, and I am hopeful that he will turn around Greater Manchester Police.
Whether it’s a football team, a business, a political party, a school or whatever else, good leadership is absolutely crucial to success. I am optimistic about this change in leadership at GMP. Chief Constable Watson faces a difficult task and we all – rightly – have very high expectations for him, but he has many fantastic officers and support staff working under him, so I am hopefully that Greater Manchester will once again have the police force we deserve.