Northumbria’s Chief Constable Sue Sim has announced her retirement after three decades of service.
The first woman to lead a Metropolitan force when she was appointed in 2011, she has risen through the ranks in both uniform and CID roles since joining Merseyside Police in 1985 as a graduate entrant.
She said: “I have always been warmly welcomed by the public here. They are incredibly supportive of their local police and we could not achieve the success we do without them.
“After careful consideration I have decided to retire when I reach my 30 years service on June 3. My family have made many sacrifices to enable me to have such a fantastic career and it is now time to spend more time with them. I am obviously sad to leave but it is the right time and I am confident I have left a legacy of high performance that will continue.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have had a marvellous career and I am as committed to serving the public as I was when I first joined Merseyside Police in 1985.
“I want to give my sincere thanks to everyone who has given me their support throughout this incredible journey. In particular, the public, the former Police Authority who trusted me to lead this excellent force and supported me. I also want to thank the Police and Crime Commissioner who has worked with me to improve the lives of our communities and victims of crime. I am also extremely grateful to our local authorities, MPs, councillors and the many formal and voluntary partner agencies that I have worked with.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Vera Baird said: “Sue has brought passion and enthusiasm to her role with Northumbria Police, always remaining focused on cutting crime and ensuring victims of crime are at the heart of everything Northumbria Police does. She leaves at a time when Northumbria is one of the highest performing forces in the country and the best force of all for the important matter of victim satisfaction.
“She and I have worked well together over the two and half years since I became Police and Crime Commissioner. She responded to the challenge of this new governance structure very positively and my experience of her is that she always, without exception, delivers what she has promised. She helped me to deliver a strategy to ensure Northumbria Police was recognised as a national leader in tackling violence against women and girls and she has revolutionised the way police officers engage with communities.
“She has played a key role in the success of this force overall, and she has been supported by the excellent officers and staff in Northumbria Police.
“With her team, she has worked hard to meet the challenge of a reduction of 37 per cent from our budget. She was determined to protect neighbourhood policing in the public interest and she has succeeded.
“I will miss our joint working and I wish her well in her retirement.”
The Chief Constable was recently subject to allegations of misconduct which led to an investigation.
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s office confirmed to the Gazette that the investigation is ongoing.
Sue Sim joined Northumbria Police in 2004 as an Assistant Chief Constable and was promoted to Deputy Chief Constable in 2008. Traditionally, a senior officer can only hold two chief officer posts in one force. However, the Police Authority was so determined to keep her in the force that it took the unprecedented step to ask the Home Secretary for special permission to allow her to apply for the position of Chief.
During her time, Sue took a leading role in the manhunt for Raoul Moat following the murder of Christopher Brown and shooting of one of her own officers, PC David Rathband.
She said: “That was one of the most challenging times of my career and the largest manhunt the country has seen for 44 years. I spent my time out and about reassuring the public and responding to their questions. Despite their concerns they never waned in their support for us and I am immensely proud of my officers and staff who went about their roles fully aware of the threats against them, but determined to support the public. That is British policing at its best, working in partnership with those we serve, and is why I am still so passionate about what we do.”
More recently, she has had to manage a reduction of 37 per cent from Northumbria’s budget since 2010 to the end of the Comprehensive Spending Review period - amounting to £117million. She has remained determined to retain visible policing in communities and to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies for police staff.
She said: “We have made savings wherever we can, closed outdated buildings and relocated our teams in the heart of our communities, as well as reducing to three Area Commands. I know this has meant some unpopular decisions but that is what leadership is about and I have never shirked away from those decisions. I have always said we will deliver our service to the public and maintain our high standards. However, I could not have achieved this without the commitment and support of my officers and staff. They have been tremendous and I am extremely grateful to them.”
She acknowledges there have been other difficult decisions in recent times. “One was the approach by a crime superintendent about an intelligence-led operation that might never realise any charges or convictions. I took the step of authorising the operation and have provided continued support for it. That was the start of what is now known as Operation Sanctuary,” she said.
“This demonstrates us at our best, uniform and investigative colleagues working side by side to address a significant issue that impacts on all our communities.
“Another was the HMIC report into the ‘no criming’ of some rape investigations. I launched a far reaching operation as it was important to reassure the public that they could have confidence to report such crime to us.
“These decisions were absolutely the right things to do for the public and victims. My motivation has always been, and remains, serving the public and keeping victims at the heart of what we do.”
Another highlight has been Operation Dragoon, Northumbria’s far reaching road safety programme which Sue has personally led.
“We have looked at all aspects of road safety and, in particular, raising awareness of young people who are new to driving,” she said.
“I have been honoured to work with families who have lost loved ones on the roads and they have helped us get the message out about the impact that dangerous driving can have on people’s lives. I am indebted to them for their bravery and selflessness and want to thank them for all their support.”
Sue also acknowledged the part volunteers play in policing. “I have always been committed to improving the lives of young people and am extremely proud to have introduced the cadet scheme, allowing young people to learn life skills and help their community. They join Special Constables who give their time freely and other volunteers who help us on a daily basis.”
She led the Association of Chief Police Officers’ public order portfolio for a number of years, where she provided strategic advice at a national level, was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2009 and became Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear in 2014.