Merseyside Police's new chief says women's safety is top priority

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image captionSerena Kennedy started out at Greater Manchester Police

Merseyside Police's first female chief constable has said "making women feel safe" is an "absolute priority".

Serena Kennedy, who started on Monday, said she was "incredibly proud" to be the first woman in charge of the force.

She said it would continue its work to "protect vulnerable people", particularly after the death of Sarah Everard in London in March.

Ms Kennedy said other key priorities included tackling serious organised crime.

Although policing has faced "one of its greatest challenges" over the last 12 months through the Covid-19 pandemic, she said Merseyside Police had seen a "great reduction" in serious organised crime during the last year.

She said a new specialist unit launched on Friday to tackle serious organised crime gangs and the force having the highest number of police officers, at 4,100, in a decade would "make a real difference".

"People will see a real visible difference on the streets," said Ms Kennedy, who is originally from Aughton in Lancashire.

She said protecting vulnerable people had always been a priority for the force but after the death of Sarah Everard she said "making sure women feel safe, that they have got a voice and that they can come forward and report offences made against them" was an "absolute priority".

'Passionate about policing'

Ms Kennedy - who joined the force as assistant chief constable in 2017 - also said she wanted to engage with women to help develop a solution to the issue of crimes against females.

She said she never dreamed of being in charge when she first started out at Greater Manchester Police 27 years ago, saying she "just wanted to be a bobby".

Now a grandmother, she said she was "still as passionate" about policing as she was when she was an eager recruit and said it was an "honour" to lead the force.

Ms Kennedy also said she was "excited and daunted" to take over the chief constable from Andy Cooke, adding they were "big shoes to fill".

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