A top cop has urged police to patrol their communities on foot after residents spoke of officers posing for photographs in ‘problem areas’ before disappearing.
the Manchester Evening News reported that Edgeley residents had seen officers getting out of police cars to take a photo before driving off – only to claim they had patrolled the area on Greater Manchester Police’s Facebook page for Stockport. Incidents were flagged up to Coun Sheila Bailey, who wrote to Chief Constable Stephen Watson expressing her concerns.
Now, Stockport’s divisional commander has warned colleagues that officers must be seen patrolling areas on foot. In response to Coun Bailey’s email, Chief Superintendent John Webster warned Stockport police that it was important as GMP tries to rebuild its reputation among the public.
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He wrote: “As we all know, the greatest strategic threat we have in GMP is legitimacy, trust and confidence. Please get some officers out on foot in those areas. Should we post on social media officers in a particular area, I will absolutely want to see evidence that they have been there, (on foot) speaking to our community and spending time there.”
Chf Supt Webster was appointed last autumn as part of the force’s drive to strengthen policing, with a chief superintendent for each of Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs. It’s part of the force’s attempts to restore confidence under Chf Con Watson following its recent failings, which led to GMP being placed into special measures in late 2020.
Last month, the MEN reported that Stockport residents had spoken out on social media after seeing part of the same Edgeley street being pictured on Facebook 10 times since the start of 2022. In the posts, police were claiming to have patrolled the area as part of Operation Valiant, which sees officers monitor areas which are regarded as hotspots for robbery and violent crime.
Coun Bailey, who represents Edgeley and Cheadle Heath on Stockport Council, gave Chf Con Watson the accounts of residents who had claimed to see officers stopping for pictures as part of Operation Valiant before disappearing. One resident said: “I saw two women police officers get out of a car near Rae Street, giggling about taking a photo and then they got back in the car and drove away.”
Another wrote: “We have noticed several times police cars and unmarked cars pull up, get out and the officers take a couple of photos by the shops [or] on the corner near the doctors and less than a minute later get back into the car and drive away. Later these pictures are added to Facebook as part of Operation Valiant – and they say they have been patrolling the area but actually they have just taken a photo.”
Coun Bailey described the practice as ‘shallow’ and ‘cynical’. Following Chf Supt Webster’s email to officers within GMP Stockport, Coun Bailey told the MEN : “The police have taken a battering lately, and quite rightly so.
“They need to restore confidence and they don’t do that by behaving in this kind of way. It’s important to know that police have taken notice and taken steps to ensure that this behavior does not continue – it was ludicrous behaviour.”
Speaking exclusively to the MEN last December, Chf Supt Webster described a three-pronged approach to drive up standards in his division – responding to incidents on time, running ‘proper’ investigations, and ‘efficient and effective’ neighborhood policing of Stockport’s streets. He said: “[It’s] a huge opportunity to elevate a great organization to the position where it should be.
“GMP is one of the biggest metropolitan forces in the country. It’s a shame that we’re perceived by the public as a failing force.
“The biggest strategic challenge I think GMP has got is building back that legitimacy, trust, and confidence in the community. And actually, it’s a huge opportunity to be involved and be part of that journey, really.”
GMP declined to comment.
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