'˜We still trust our police', say people of Sheffield after Hillsborough inquests
Despite Hillsborough, despite Orgreave, despite national scandal and scrutiny, the people of Sheffield still trust their police officers to keep them safe.
Speaking on the day families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster announced their intention to sue South Yorkshire Police, most people in Sheffield city centre said they were not worried about the ability and integrity of their local PCs.
And local politicians have urged the Home Office to step in to help cover the costs of the potential compensation claims to ensure that already-stretched frontline policing is protected from further cuts.
On the streets of Sheffield, charity youth worker Ben Baker, aged 28, from Page Hall, said: “I still trust them. I think they have been tarnished but it hasn’t affected my view of how I deal with police.
“You will get individuals who fall below the standard and individuals who are above. As an organisation there are areas where they can improve but on the whole they are good.
“I was burgled once and they helped, and I work with PCSOs. My experience is generally positive.”
Mr Baker said it was important to look at all the work police officers do.
“Hillsborough was a horrendous incident, but compare it with all the football matches they have successfully policed. How many have there been where that hasn’t happened?”
Following the verdict in the Hillsborough inquests that the 96 Liverpool FC fans who died in the crush at the FA Cup semi final on April 15, 1989 were killed unlawfully, there have been calls for a fresh look at the Battle of Orgreave five years earlier.
Tim Jones, 46, from Stannington, is part of the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, and was at the House of Lords on Tuesday calling for a new inquiry. Tim was also outside Hillsborough on the day of the disaster.
“There’s a difference between a regular officer on the beat and the chief constable,” he said. South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton was suspended on Tuesday.
“When you reach the rank of high management you become a politician. In all police forces they have got that arrogance about the management structure.
“I don’t worry about the reputation of the regular officer.
“In Stannington we’ve got a PCSO. They are essential because they have had that many cuts.”
Stacey Lawson, 25, from High Green, said police were doing the best they could in the face of cuts.
“You don’t see the police,” she said. “Ten years ago you saw cops on the street, but nowadays you don’t see the bobby on the beat.
“It bothers me, but I blame the Government because it’s always cuts, cuts, cuts.
“I think they are doing the best that they can. All they have got is people to man a phone, but they haven’t necessarily got people to send out. It’s a rubbish world we live in.
“The people at the top get the money and the dogsbodies at the bottom get squat.”
Ewan Birch, 17, from Halfway, said: “I still have trust in the police. If I see anything I would tell them and I would have belief in them to take control of it.
“I see police a lot on the street and in cars. That’s reassuring, that there is a presence.
“I got headbutted a year ago and they helped out and found the person who did it.”
Barry Dawson, 60, who comes from Liverpool but lives in Darnall, said he had been moved by the events of the week.
He said: “I’ve got nothing against the police. They do their job, so fair dos.
“You see them on West Street at the weekend and if there’s any trouble they sort it out. I do think they just get on with their job. Forget the past and live for tomorrow.
“But the management does need to take a bit more responsibility. They couldn’t have done anything else but get rid of the chief constable.”
Cherlese Silverwood, 30, from Arbourthorne, said: “I don’t really have very much trouble so I don’t really have much contact with the police. But I would be confident if something did happen that they would sort it out.”
And Andrew Cluley, 75, who was visiting from Hinckley in Leicestershire to watch the snooker with his wife Judith, said: “Hillsborough hasn’t stopped me from coming to Yorkshire.
“We just love to visit here.
“We’ve just seen two police officers park their car. We would have no problem approaching a policemen here.
“Their reputation hasn’t been tarnished. It was so long ago and police forces nationally have changed. We have PCSOs which we didn’t have back then.”
The only dissenting voice was George Cocking, 81, from Eyam in Derbyshire, who was born in Sheffield and still visits twice a week.
He said: “When I was born here they were walking about. You would always see a copper.
Where are they today? They are all in cars.
“I wouldn’t trust them to tackle problems. Listening to the news last night you can guess what they are like.”
Meanwhile, local politicians have said the people of Sheffield must not pay for the historic failings of police over Hillsborough.
MP Clive Betts said: “Whatever happens, the public of South Yorkshire shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of the police in 1989.”
Both Mr Betts and fellow Sheffield MP Louise Haigh said special Government funding should be granted in a similar manner to the Home Office grants that helped the force cover the legal costs of former officers during the two-year inquests.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett has also said South Yorkshire should not be penalised by the costs of further investigations into the disaster, with the force and some of its former high-ranking officers currently under criminal investigation.
Lord Blunkett said: “In dealing with the immediate future, it will surely be crucial that the people of South Yorkshire, many of whom played a signal part on that day in taking people into their homes, should not now pay the penalty of costs arising out of further investigational work.”
Mr Betts said the extra Government funding secured by police commissioner Alan Billings to cover the legal costs of the inquest should also be made available in relation to the compensation claims.
And Miss Haigh said: “Obviously South Yorkshire Police is under incredible funding restrictions already.
“They have had a statutory obligation to fund the defence of police officers, serving and retired. But they coped through special grants from the Home Office and I would hope the Home Secretary could step in to help again.”
Almost 400 people are bringing a class action against South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police – who carried out the first investigation into what happened – over the events of Hillsborough.