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Public do not want virtue-signalling officers, new police chief says

·2-min read

The level of “woke” policing has passed a “high water mark” of tolerance from the public – who would rather see officers catch burglars, the new head of England’s second largest force has said.

Stephen Watson, the new chief constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), believes the public is “fed up” and that the impartiality of officers could be undermined by responses to campaign groups including actions such as taking the knee or wearing their pins, badges or rainbow shoelaces.

On whether he would take the knee in uniform, Mr Watson told The Daily Telegraph: “No, I absolutely would not. I would probably kneel before the Queen, God, and Mrs Watson, that’s it.”

New head of Greater Manchester Police
Stephen Watson being sworn in as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Mr Watson, 52, began his new role last month at GMP which is effectively in “special measures” after a damning watchdog report revealed the force had failed to properly record 80,000 crimes.

During in his first week in charge, he vowed he would quit if the force is not in a “demonstrably better place” within two years.

Mr Watson told the newspaper: “Impartiality is in danger of being upset in our urge and desire to demonstrate that we would like to make common cause from time to time with people whose agenda is very difficult to disagree with.

“I do not think that things like taking the knee, demonstrating that you have a commonality of view with the protesters that you’re policing is compatible with the standards of service that people require of their police.

“Officers could put themselves in a difficult place because if you demonstrate you’re not impartial, and you then have to make an arrest, how on earth do you assist the courts to come to just judgement as to you having executed your powers of arrest in an appropriately impartial professional manner?”

New head of Greater Manchester Police
Stephen Watson alongside Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Mr Watson, who avoids social media as a way to boost his own profile, told the paper: “I think we’re past the high watermark.

“The public are getting a little bit fed up of virtue-signalling police officers when they’d really rather we just locked up burglars.”

He says he hopes improve to confidence by sending officers to every burglary and investigating every crime.

Mr Watson has a reputation for turning around failing forces after he oversaw marked improvements in his last job as chief constable of South Yorkshire Police.

Previous GMP chief constable Ian Hopkins stepped down in December after Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he asked him to resign in the wake of the scathing report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Watch: I will not let police be subjected to trial by social media, says Patel

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