OLDHAM’S most senior police officer reserved special praise for Saddleworth as he retired after 30 years’ service.
Chief Superintendent Neil Evans, who has been in command of the Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside divisions for three years, left the police service in November.
Mr Evans, 50, said: “There is no doubt this has probably been the most challenging time of my career in terms of the various challenges and constant nature of them.
“Oldham represents a diverse and challenging policing environment. And of course the beautiful villages of Saddleworth represent well that diversity.
“Throughout my time as territorial commander I tried my best to support our officers and local communities.
“My first foot patrol was with the excellent PC Lee Cullen in Uppermill supporting the team with their ZeroZone initiative.
“I was struck by the strong partnership between ourselves and licensees in ensuring the vibrant evening trade was as safe as possible.
“I was also delighted to attend on two occasions the Saddleworth Show where again the excellent community spirit was on show.”
He highlighted Oldham Mountain Rescue Team for special mention, adding: “GMP have worked closely with them over many years and I remember distinctly their critical contribution in helping with the consequences of the ‘Beast from the East’ and moors fires.
“They are an outstanding group of people and I was pleased to attend their base on a couple of occasions to present them with recognition on behalf of the force.”
Looking at the bigger policing picture, Mr Evans said: “I have always made it clear we do not have enough officers or staff. That has to be my biggest disappointment.
“Despite a small number of extra officers, the force is roughly the size it was at its inception in 1974.
“It was a very different world then and quite frankly when I see the demands of today on our officers and staff, I am amazed at what they deliver day in day out.
“One of the major challenges of this situation has been maintaining our legitimacy with the public, which is what British policing depends on.
“Too often my role has been explaining why on too many occasions we haven’t at times been able to deliver the quality of service that I and my colleagues would want to.”
Mr Evans, who comes from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, joined GMP in 2010 on promotion to superintendent.
He concluded: “I have had a fantastic career, working with some amazing people and I regard myself as very fortunate and privileged.
“I leave with some sadness, but now is the right time for me.
“I wish the Force and my colleagues well and am hopeful that over time the investment announced in policing will mean my successors have a better level of resources to best deliver for the public.”
Cllr Jamie Curley, chair of Saddleworth Parish Council, said: “I would like to thank Chief Superintendent Evans on behalf of the community for all his support in the past years.
“I remember talking to him at the Saddleworth Summer Show this year when he expressed his admiration for the partnership between the policing team and the community.
“I look forward to meeting our new Chief Superintendent and wish Neil all the best in the future.”