Chief Constable Stephen Watson takes over GMP in 'special measures'

The new head of Greater Manchester Police has been chosen as the troubled force moves forward into "a new era".

Chief Constable Watson was selected as the preferred candidate earlier this week and given the support of Mayor Andy Burnham and Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes, who has special responsibility for policing.

The Chief Constable presented this afternoon to the Greater Manchester Police, Crime and Fire Panel after which the panel ratified the Mayor's choice.

The appointment was then announced at a press conference with Chief Constable Watson, Mayor Burnham and Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes.

Mr Burnham said: "I"m pleased to say that members of the panel have endorsed our recommendation.

"Today is a positive day for the force and we move forward into a new era. We are confident we have found the right person."

Chief Constable Watson said: "It is humbling to be trusted with the great responsibility and the great privilege of being asked to lead a great force such as Greater Manchester Police."

Andy Burnham Police Gmp
Andy Burnham and Beverley Hughes with police officers

Greater Manchester Police covers 2.4 million people in the region around Manchester. It is the second largest force in England after the Metropolitan Police. Chief Constable Watson will be in charge of over 10,000 staff including over 6,000 officers.

Chief Constable Watson is currently in charge of policing in South Yorkshire, where the force is consistently rated 'good' in inspections.

Prior to joining South Yorkshire, 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.

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

Baroness 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."

The new Chief Constable faces an uphill task as he strives to rebuild confidence in Greater Manchester Police. 

GMP was investigated by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in December 2020, producing a 25-page report that detailed how the force had failed to record over 80,000 crimes in a year

The Chief Constable at the time, Ian Hopkins, stepped down from his role after being on leave for health issues. Announcing his resignation, Mr Hopkins said: "These are challenging times for Greater Manchester Police. The force has a long-term strategic plan to address the issues raised by the HMIC and I believe this plan should be led by a Chief Constable who can oversee it from start to finish."

Later, Andy Burnham said that he asked Hopkins to resign. “As Police and Crime Commissioner I do have to hold the chief constable to account – and that is why I took the decision that new leadership was needed," said Burnham, at an extraordinary scrutiny meeting that was called by Stockport councillors.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson is due to start in the new role on 24 May.

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