Boris’s failure on police numbers has left a gaping hole at the heart of the Met

Despite his election pledges, Boris Johnson has dismantled neighbourhood policing.

Despite his election pledges, Boris Johnson has dismantled neighbourhood policing

‘1,000 new police officers on the beat.’

That was the pledge by Boris Johnson when he last put himself before the electorate. Yet as he prepares to face a different selectorate this week in his bid to become the Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and Ruislip South, that pledge lies in tatters.

Despite making this commitment, since the current Government came to power in May 2010 London has lost almost five thousand police officers. The Mayor, elected to stand up for the people of London, has unashamedly administered these cuts instead of fighting them.

On top of this, new figures I’ve obtained show that in May this year (the latest period available) there were 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables across the capital’s borough forces.

In total, fourteen boroughs had vacancy rates of over 6 per cent, with five facing double digit deficits. Harrow is shown to have the highest percentage of vacancies, with 15 per cent of its sergeant and constable posts unfilled. Waltham Forest had the highest overall number, with 72 vacancies from a force of 664.

The impact this will be having on already dented police numbers is severe. On a day-to-day basis, operating with this level of vacant posts means less officers on the beat, less officers following up and investigating crimes and less chance of catching the criminals the police force is there to protect us from.

And while a small churn in the number of officers is to be expected, these are deeply concerning figures. When a force has up to 15 per cent of its positions unfilled we need to ask not only what impact that has on policing, but why it was allowed to happen in the first place.

There could be a number of reasons behind the vacancy rates, and I’m sure the Mayor will argue that more officers are currently in training; but that squarely misses the point. Whether the depth of officer morale is so low that the Met is haemorrhaging officers, or whether these posts are being kept open to keep costs down, people deserve to know why vacancy rates are so high.

Either way, the Mayor needs to take immediate action to ensure our police force is up to strength and vacancies are filled as quickly as possible, as they are leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the Met.

Unfortunately for Londoners, this isn’t the only case in which the Mayor is shooting himself in the foot on policing. Another concerning trend in Boris Johnson’s oversight of the force is his approach to neighbourhood policing. Safer Neighbourhood Teams, introduced under the previous Government, vastly improved the Met’s relationship with communities and saw great success  in areas which previously faced significant policing challenges.

That approach – one of genuine local policing – helped to improve safety, build confidence and give people a proper local link to the police force.

Despite his various election pledges on policing, however, Boris Johnson’s flagship policing policy has been to dismantle neighbourhood policing, cutting the teams from six officers to just two (a constable and a PCSO). In the Mayor’s language, this is a simple ‘reorganisation’; in reality it has been a devastating reversal of a popular and successful policy. Even the Met Commissioner has now agreed that this was ‘a step too far’.

Individual policy missteps can be expected from time to time under an administration, and if implemented in good nature and then remedied quickly, can be excusable. But take some of the worst of Boris Johnson’s record on policing in full – 4,694 police officers and PCSOs cut from our streets, vacancy rates of up to 15 per cent and neighbourhood policing cut to the bone.

In this light, it comes as no surprise that last year an independent report found that the proportion of the Met’s officers deemed ‘visible’ was the third lowest in England and Wales.

London’s police force should be setting an example to the rest of the country, not bringing up the rear in terms of standards. Boris Johnson is a large part of this problem. Londoners deserve better.

Joanne McCartney AM is London Assembly Labour Group policing and crime spokesperson

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5 Responses to “Boris’s failure on police numbers has left a gaping hole at the heart of the Met”

  1. Dave Roberts

    Another non-article from Labour based entirely on bashing Boris and with little regard for the facts. As with the ethnic make up of police forces nobody can be forced to join up. If there are 1,209 vacancies across the Met than means an average of just over 37 per division based on there being 32 divisons, equaling the number of London boroughs. This figure doesn’t take into account all of the ancillary and support staff as well as specialised units.

    Is the writers argument that the posts are deliberately being left empty or that there haven’t been enough suitable applicants to fill them? We aren’t told.

    Could it be that one of the reasons that people aren’t joining the Met as with other forces is that policing now has the tarnished image that it had at the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies when at one point London had no Drug or Pornography Squads as they were all suspended for corruption?

    When we have a situation where officers on duty at Downing St will conspire to fabricate evidence against a Minister of The Crown things have reached a pretty pass. Add onto that cover ups of all kinds at up to Chief Constable rank and we are back to the ” Firm within a firm” days of old. It maybe a case not of ” don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington” rather don’t let her join the Old Bill.

  2. Kay

    Imagine that you have left University (with debts), got a job and then decided that you would like to be a police officer. Vacancies in your local Force rarely arise – perhaps a a couple or maybe dozen a year in a metropolitan Force. You pass the interview, the fitness tests and the exam. In fact, you have to go through the exams time and time again (it gives the recruiting people something to do, I suppose. it is probable that you are only making up the numbers and someone from the cohort of 2008 will finally get the one vacancy.).

    You are told that there is a shortcut to all this palaver: join the Special Constabulary. You give up your free time to work alongside police officers at weekends in the City Centre, usually at night time. You exercise the same powers and receive the same training as a police officer. You drive police cars. You carry a baton, radio, cuffs. You deal with crimes, disturbances, detainees and you have to negotiate with your employer for time off to go to court. And still there’s still a huge backlog of similar people in a queue to join the police before you.

    So you think of applying to the Met, where there may be a higher turnover of staff. They put another hurdle in front of you. They want you to take a ‘policing skills test’ and it will cost you something like £1500 for the privilege. (A little money spinner for the recruiting office, while it twiddles its thumbs). If you pass, the Met will put you through the same old same old fitness and knowledge tests and interviews.

    You may well pass the £1500 test – or you may find yourself on the same merry go round of repeating the ‘fake’ recruitment processes (which you always pass with flying colours), moving to London and giving up your free time to be a Special. Is it worth a punt? It seems that for many, many young people, it is.

    Specials and a would-be recruits are shamelessly exploited and bribed into filling the gaps and vcancies. By golly, their perseverance through the hurdles, diappointments, lies and false hopes are something to admire.

  3. Dave Roberts

    You forgot Freemasonry as I did. Let’s put that in.

  4. Dave Roberts

    You forgot Freemasonry as I did. Let’s put that in.

  5. Dave Roberts

    You forgot Freemasonry as I did. Let’s put that in.

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