Stephen Watson set to be named Greater Manchester Police chief constable

Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) preferred candidate has been revealed - and he will be tasked with turning around the force.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 11:40 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:36 pm

Stephen Watson is set to replace Ian Hopkins, who resigned from the role last year following a highly critical report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The watchdog estimated the force failed to record 80,000 crimes in one year.

It said it was left “deeply troubled” over how cases handled by Britain’s second largest force were closed without proper investigation.

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Chief Constable Stephen Watson

They also said GMP’s service to victims of crime was a “serious cause of concern”.

Inspectors found that around one in five of all crimes, and one in four violent crimes, reported by the public to the force were not recorded.

Asst Chief Constable Ian Pilling, who is from Wigan, replaced Mr Hopkins for the interim, but now Mr Watson is ready to take over the reigns.

Mr Watson, who is currently in charge of policing in South Yorkshire, received the support of Mr Burnham and Bev Hughes, Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Fire, following interviews earlier this week.

A report outlining the preferred choice for Chief Constable will go to the Greater Manchester Police, Crime and Fire Panel which meets at the end of this week.

The preferred candidate will present to the panel, which will then discuss and vote on whether to ratify the nomination.

Mr Burnham said: “This has been a challenging period for Greater Manchester Police but I am confident that we have found the right person to lead the force into a new era.

“Chief Constable Watson has a proven record of improving police performance and establishing the positive, accountable, victim-centred culture that I have said I want to see.

“I hope the Panel will support our recommendation and open a new chapter for policing in Greater Manchester.”

Ms Hughes said: “I am grateful for the way the Acting Chief Constable and his colleagues have risen to the challenge of recent events at GMP and started the process of improvement. We have now taken the major step in appointing the person who will oversee GMP for the long term.

“This has been a rigorous recruitment process and from a competitive field, Stephen Watson emerged as the outstanding candidate.

“I know, with so many committed officers and staff, GMP can be a great police service. Subject to approval from the Panel on Friday, the Mayor and I look forward to working with him to achieve that goal for the people of Greater Manchester.”

During Mr Watson’s tenure at South Yorkshire Police, the force has emerged strongly from a troubled period and has been the most improved in the country for three consecutive years.

It is among the top tier of high performing forces and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) currently now assess it as ‘good’ across every measure in the annual PEEL assessment.

It is also understood to be the only force in the country to be assessed as ‘outstanding’ in respect of ethical and lawful leadership.

Prior to joining South Yorkshire, Mr Watson gained experience in Lancashire and Merseyside before working at the Metropolitan Police in London, including as a senior member of the 2012 Olympic Command Team for which he was awarded the Commissioner’s Commendation.

During his time in London, as a qualified firearms and public order commander Watson regularly performed Gold Command roles in several high-profile policing operations and critical incidents.

These included a fatal helicopter crash in central London and in working with partner agencies across East London to restore public confidence in the aftermath of the 2011 riots.

In June 2015 Mr Watson was appointed Deputy Chief Constable for Durham Constabulary and a year later took up his appointment as Chief Constable at South Yorkshire Police.

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