The erosion of local policing in London must be stopped

There are now 2,900 fewer police officers compared to 2010.

Joanne McCartney AM is London Assembly Labour Police and Crime spokesperson

In the past week we’ve seen an intense debate over the future of policing in London. Last week we found out the Mayor is trying to rush through the purchase of three water cannon for use on our streets with virtually no consultation with the public.

Yesterday we discovered that the Met Police’s use of Tasers has increased by 88 per cent.

These are worrying moves for those of use concerned about maintaining Britain’s model of policing by consent. Indeed, following the riots in August 2011 even Theresa May said: “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through the consent of communities”.

On Boris Johnson’s watch we’ve seen the erosion of local neighbourhood policing; last year he unveiled his new ‘Local Policing Model’ and promised Londoners an extra 2,600 police officers. According to his own figures there are now 2,900 fewer police officers and 2,370 fewer PCSOs compared to 2010 – that’s nearly 10 per cent and over 50 per cent lost respectively.

This is a significant decrease and goes some way to explaining why the Met Police has the third lowest visible police presence in England and Wales. Further, the Met spends 8 per cent less on its neighbourhood policing than its most similar forces.

At today’s Greater London Authority Budget Meeting I have proposed to put an additional 1,185 Police Community Support Officers back on our streets working alongside our police officers. Increasing London’s Safer Transport Team with an extra 250 dedicated police officers to further reduce crime on our transport network and increase confidence.

I am also proposing bursaries to help low-income Londoners from black and minority ethnic communities become police officers. This is key to ensuring the Metropolitan Police looks like, and understands, the city it polices.

To help victims of crime I’m also proposing extra support for more vulnerable victims, such as those with learning disabilities and mental health problems. There is also extra support for victims of domestic violence, by assessing the need for domestic violence refuge places across London and increasing the number of independent domestic violence advocates.

These plans are fully costed and the Mayor could implement them come April. The proposals have been put forward to reverse the ‘hollowing out’ of London’s Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Under Boris we are witnessing a drift away from a police service and towards a police force. If the Mayor wants this to happen he should have put it to Londoners when he stood for election and then re-election.

There has been great progress in policing the capital, however there is much more to be done. We need to break down the mistrust of the police that exists, provide a better service to victims of crime and make proper provision for dealing with, and helping, people with mental health problems who commit crime.

Today we are questioning the Mayor on his budget proposals and the Police and Crime Committee will have a special session to try and understand his logic for rushing through buying water cannon for the Met.

Such a monumental shift in policing demands a proper public debate, and the Mayor’s attempts to bounce this through in a few weeks are a disgrace.

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