Police officers have been told to shave off their designer stubble and polish their boots in a “back to basics” plan that has turned one of Britain’s biggest forces into the fastest improving.
Stephen Watson, Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable, ordered the smart dress code after finding officers’ “cheap” kit left them appearing scruffy and unprofessional, as he sought to turn around the “failing” force when he took over last summer.
The shake-up, which has put more bobbies on the beat, and a drive to pursue every crime lead, has led to such a big increase in arrests of criminals that the force has had to open more custody suites and deploy more officers to handle them.
In an interview with The Telegraph to mark his first anniversary, Mr Watson said his strategy of “getting back to the core fundamentals of effective policing” meant Greater Manchester was now emerging as the “most improved” force in the country.
Since he took over last June, 999 call handling response times have halved from one minute six seconds to 29 seconds, arrests have jumped 61 per cent to 4,527 and the number of crimes solved is up by 21 per cent. It will mean an extra 29,000 suspects being arrested this year.
Dress code restores public respect
Mr Watson replaced Ian Hopkins who quit as chief constable after the force became one of six placed in “special measures” because of its failure to record and investigate thousands of crimes.
He said the dress code helped to restore public and professional respect in the police, under the “old fashioned” adage that “if you look after the little stuff, big stuff tends to look after itself”.
It was not the fault of officers who had been issued with “cheap” kit “not fit for purpose” and, in a bid to save money, the force’s insignia removed, he said. “It looks scruffy and they look scruffy as a result,” he said.
Alongside the new kit, officers are also required to follow a new dress code.
“If you turn up to work, if you’re a female officer, you tie your hair up, if you’re a man you’ve had a shave, you press your clothing if you know how, you polish your boots, you look smart, and you look professional. We’re very uncompromising on that,” said Mr Watson.
“When you see the Grenadier Guards outside Buckingham Palace, there’s never a problem with smartness or with uniform standards. Our people don’t have to be guardsmen but I do think we can take a leaf out of that book.”