A message accidentally posted on a website for retired South Yorkshire Police officers has assured them they “did a good job” in the 1980s, despite the deaths of 96 fans in the Hillsborough disaster.
The post, which has since been removed, was written by Rick Naylor, a former South Yorkshire officer who is the secretary of the South Yorkshire branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers (Narpo).
Entitled “a bad day”, it referred to the findings of the second Hillsborough inquests that the fans who died in 1989 were unlawfully killed, and police decisions on the day had led to their deaths.
Mr Naylor wrote: “After all that transpired yesterday it has not shaken my belief – I worked in a great police force with fantastic people who did extraordinary things.
“I am extremely proud to be an ex-South Yorkshire cop and I will hold my head up.
“South Yorkshire Police faced immense challenges in the 1980s – the steel strike, the miners’ dispute and Hillsborough, and along the way we caught the Yorkshire Ripper!
“All these challenges tested SYP (South Yorkshire Police), and, yes, mistakes were made and we would all like to turn the clock back, but beyond these headlines the communities of South Yorkshire were served by dedicated police officers, full of good humour, courage, and selflessness – and that was you.
“You will be feeling sore, angry and disheartened and that is understandable but you did a good job – we all did!”
Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher died in the tragedy, told the BBC: “They didn’t do a good job. Yes, I saw police officers endeavouring to give mouth-to-mouth or CPR and those people were excellent.
“But the sad thing is they were only a few, maybe on two hands you could count them.”
A criminal investigation into what happened at Hillsborough, known as Operation Resolve, is expected to conclude within months.
Officers working on Operation Resolve have accessed over 5,200 police notebooks that were not available to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, but so far 74 former South Yorkshire Police officers have refused to co-operate with the investigation.
Following the inquest verdicts, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton, offered an “unreserved apology” to the families of the Hillsborough victims, saying: “I want to make it absolutely clear that we unequivocally accept the verdict of unlawful killing and the wider findings .. South Yorkshire Police got the policing of the FA cup semi-final at Hillsborough catastrophically wrong.”
The following day the local Police and Crime Commissioner suspended Mr Crompton as Chief Constable. Alan Billings said he had acted due to the “erosion of public trust and confidence in the force”.
Mr Crompton has previouslyfaced criticism for an email sent in 2012, four days before the publication of the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. In it Mr Crompton said “one thing is certain – the Hillsborough Campaign for Justice will be doing their version.. in fact their version of certain events has become ‘the truth even though it isn’t’.”
He added “I just have the feeling the media ‘machine’ favours the families and not us so we need to be a bit more innovative in our response to have a fighting chance otherwise we will just be roadkill.”
He later apologised for accusing the families of lying.