'Flexibility can lead to great results...'
Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date online: 11 January 2017
OLDHAM'S new police chief says working with local communities is one of his main priorities.
Chief Superintendent Neil Evans has taken over as GMP's territorial commander in a move which also sees him embrace Tameside and Rochdale police divisions.
In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, the plain-speaking officer said: "What is really clear to me is when locally based officers are allowed the flexibility and discretion to work closely and collaboratively with partners and local people, then great results can be achieved.
"This remains my policing philosophy, though I have to recognise that we are operating in a very different climate now, where both police and partner resources have reduced significantly.
"This makes working with local people doubly important and GMP has restated its commitment to policing in this way."
For the last three years, he has been seconded to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, working on greater collaboration between the wider public service and communities.
Chf Supt Evans (47) who originates from Stourbridges, began his police career in 1989 with West Midlands Police at Dudley.
He served in uniform and as a detective in various ranks and cites his five years as an inspector in Wolverhampton as particularly formative in his approach to policing.
"Wolverhampton is a really diverse and challenging city to police. I was the project manager for introduction of neighbourhood policing there in 2005."
Mr Evans joined GMP on promotion to superintendent in 2010. He initially headed up the Force Intelligence Branch, moving to Tameside a year later.
Here, he played a key role in the huge safeguarding operation in the aftermath of four murders including those of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
"I am always reticent to refer to Nicola and Fiona publicly because for me, it is intensely personal.
"But I can't get away from the fact this that is the single biggest tragedy I have faced in my career.
"But what has been said many times before and which I wholeheartedly endorse was the incredible support of the public, not just in terms of the response to the incident itself but in working with us and partners to tackle organised crime in its many forms across Tameside and North Manchester."
This approach was rolled out force-wide as Programme Challenger, including Oldham.
The consequences of serious organised crime are felt in local streets and communities, he said: "I am determined to ensure we continue to work with partners and communities to tackle organised crime in its various forms and consequences."
Chf Supt Evans had his first real connection with Oldham when he was the ground commander in response to the Shaw gas explosion in 2012.
"I was covering for colleagues in Oldham for a day and ended up there for three long ones. This was an utter tragedy that saw a little boy lose his life to a criminal act.
"Three things remain in mind, primarily the bravery of several of our officers going into the collapsed buildings, literally minutes after it had happened to try and rescue people.
"Secondly, the excellent and difficult investigation leading to the conviction of the culprit, and finally, the tremendous spirit shown by the community, with the support of public services in dealing with and recovering from the tremendous tragedy and upheaval."
Of his new appointment, he said: "I am really excited to have been given this opportunity. What has always been clear to me is the massive importance of having a strong connection with local people and partners. Without this we can't do our job effectively and this will be my overarching focus.
"We are a much smaller organisation than we used to be, but we have great people who make a difference every day."
Saying structures and policies in large organisations 'can unintentionally 'get in the way' of people doing what they think is the right thing, he promised: "I will listen to our officers and staff to try and get the balance right."
Mr Evans, who will command 1,280 officers and staff, will be based at Oldham, "a proper, old fashioned nick."
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