In the Media

London mayor: your ideas for policing and crime policy | Dave Hill

PUBLISHED March 6, 2012

The second of our crowdsourcing debates for a project to create a new vision for London looks at crime-fighting issues

The government has put London's mayor more directly in charge of the strategic direction and budget of the Metropolitan police and made him, formally at least, more directly accountable to the public. Some fear that this will politicise policing, but Kit Malthouse, who is Boris Johnson's appointee as head of the newly formed Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime, argues that the Met has always responded to the demands of politicians. Both Johnson and Ken Livingstone before him have rather borne this out.

So the constitutional subtleties are probably less important than the mayor's priorities and determination to see them implemented. What should those priorities be? Most politicians talk utter rubbish about crime. Terrified of being dubbed "soft" by the media, they spout "get tough" platitudes that the dimmest criminology undergraduate could discredit after a single seminar. Too much political debate centres on the number of police in London rather than what they actually do. How about a London mayor who broke that mould?

He or she could start by insisting that all police activity foster the most precious crime-fighting resource of all ? the trust and support of the public, especially those who live in high crime areas. Good policing must be cherished, but the other type is unacceptable. The still emerging scandals about the Met's relationships with some in the media haven't helped to foster faith.

Some honest talk about crime statistics might be welcome too, not least a recognition that although recorded crime in general has been in overall decline in London for 10 years, some kinds are on the rise in a city in which too many people have become isolated from the mainstream London story of growth, glory and prosperity and that this threatens the city's whole future.

Last summer's riots brought the ugliest consequences of that isolation into the light. As the Met commissioner himself acknowledges, you can't change that only by throwing uniforms at it. (This is especially true of violent, territorial youth crime, which will be the subject of a separate article next week). Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, a former senior Met officer, envisages stop and search being used far more carefully and police and local communities working together much more closely. Is he right? How would this succeed in practice?

London's mayors can go out on a limb, kicking off big public debates about difficult crime issues. How about exploring the case for a clear-eyed, pragmatic legalisation of drugs? How can the law best protect those working in London's sex trade? Should we liberalise or should we criminalise the purchaser?

There are basic questions about the use of resources. Paddick says that there are too many specialist units in the Met at the expensive of regular, response policing. Is he right? Bernard Hogan-Howe has launched a campaign against uninsured motorists. Should the mayor ask him to go further? And, by the way, is it logical that the City of London has a police service all of its own?

Those are just few questions I'd like your help with answering. You, I'm sure, will raise other issues. Please, be my guest.

AnUncivilServant suggests:

Without question the MPS needs to be stripped of its national responsibilities for counter terrorism and this shifted elsewhere (the new National Policing Service being the obvious option). That way the MPS can focus on the job of protecting the capital. This would also mean that there would no longer be any need for the Home Secretary to be involved in the decision of appointing the Commissioner - meaning that the Mayor can pick the right candidate for London.

It's unfortunate but I think the MPS's share of the precept also needs to go up. We have the lowest level of police officers per capita since the advent of modern policing and while keeping the capital safe isn't merely a numbers game, more bodies wouldn't hurt.

It's become clear that there is an urgent need to knock Kit Malthouse off his perch as well. Not only is he a part timer but his predilection for meddling in operational matters are putting the Met's independence at risk. I'm in favour of more accountability for the police but the elected head in London should be the Mayor and no one else.

My other proposals would be:

1. The Safer Neighbourhood teams need their sergeants back - the ones that Boris took away.
2. An increase in resources for rape - the MPS has one of the worst force area records in this area
3. Abolition of the City of London force and a merger with the MPS. It's national responsibilities for financial crime should be transferred to the new National Policing Service
4. A revision of the requirements for entry to the Met - higher educational standards would (I hope) get a better type of applicant and this should be coupled with mores stringent criteria for promotion. All applicants for senior positions should be required to be educated to degree level - not currently the case.
5. the territorial policing model needs a review. Whether a model based on 32 boroughs is still sustainable is a moot point. I'd want to see more of a sub-regional model for policing to create flexible resourcing and give officers a broader range of experience

DaveHill responds:

Lots of good thoughts there, thanks. One them includes the Met's record on rape investigations. You might agree with Brian Paddick on this issue.

Police are in danger of encouraging "predatory men" to rape women by discrediting victims in their investigations, the former senior Metropolitan police officer Brian Paddick has claimed.
In a Guardian interview, Paddick warns that some detectives adopt a "she wants it really" attitude to women alleging rape and sometimes refuse to acknowledge that some types of men, such as licensed cab drivers, can be rapists.

Full story here.

Greatunclefred suggests:

Glad the new Commissioner is getting illegal vehicles off our streets. Jenny Jones has been a fairly lone voice at times, saying that this is a priority because of the link to both mainstream crime and hit & run incidents.

DaveHill responds:


westwoods suggests:

Oh please. Last summer's riots brought the vile, criminal element out onto our streets to loo
t, assault and commit arson.
Most honest, law abiding people would have been happy to see troops deployed.

DaveHill responds:

Have I disagreed? Trouble is, the world's not simple.

P0kerFace suggests:

I'd like to see a mayor point out that "police on the beat" is simply cops walking down the street giving directions to tourists, and it is also reported crimes going uninvestigated. Why such focus on this pointless rhetoric?
For that matter, police on the beat could cover a lot more high streets on the back of a bicycle. Expand the police cycle task force.
On drugs - Legalise, tax, regulate. The war on drugs doesn't work, just take a look at the greater harm the american/mexican war on drugs has had. Stop wasting taxpayer money criminalising those who fall victim to drug addiction. Take back power from drug cartels by having regulated, legal institutions take over the distribution. Use the money gained through tax to fund rehabilitation and support centers for those who suffer addictions.
Prositution - If you're good at math but not good at sex, you use your trade to get money for other things, but you can't trade it for sex. If you're good at sex but not good at math, you can't trade your skill for anything. I'll never understand why the math group can't trade for sex and the sex group can't trade for money. Take money and power back from criminal groups who take advantage of the industries illegal status, reduce human trafficking, register and protect those in the industry, use the tax benefits to fund programmes that further reduce human trafficking.

DaveHill responds:

Hi. I think you're on to something with this:

"I'd like to see a mayor point out that "police on the beat" is simply cops walking down the street giving directions to tourists, and it is also reported crimes going uninvestigated. Why such focus on this pointless rhetoric?"

A recent LSE study concluded that a 10% increase in police activity on the streets produces a 3% decrease in crime. I think there's a good argument for visible policing, but do those stats represent the best use of resources? Do we still over-romanticise the bobby on the beat? Some people think both Ken and Boris guilty of that.

david119 suggests:

I used to be very proud of our largely unarmed British Police. But over the years they have become increasingly militaristic, arrogant, overbearing and completely out of touch with the needs of ordinary people.

DaveHill responds:

I don't think you're alone in that - even Kit Malthouse wouldn't entirely demur - although I still believe that really good cops are exceptional people. I'd like a mayor who said that loud and clear but also didn't hesitate to condemn the bad sort of policing.

situgrrl suggests:

The only thing I can add is that SNTs are absolutely crucial and they are NOT WORKING at the moment. I speak as a boater who lives along a towpath ridden with all sorts of low-level crime. However, the police fail to respond in a timely manner and write off crimes as they did not happen because they cannot find the towpath. (Assault in Alperton with threat of sexual violence, bicycle theft in Victoria Park, threat to burn boats in Victoria Park, burglary in Kensal Rise, bottles thrown at boats in Islington.) The control rooms rely on you being able to provide a it's 999, triangulate the phone automatically.
Change of culture within the police is necessary both Met/City and nationwide. Victims should not be treated as suspects, even if they have been suspected/convicted of other crime.

DaveHill responds:

Good point. I know someone who lives on a boat and got burgled recently. And there are wider arguments about how SNTs are used too. For example, Brian Paddick thinks there should be more warranted officers among them in high crime areas and fewer in, say, Bromley. Not sure how the suburbs would respond to that idea, mind.

bumbumbum suggests:

When is the home office going to stop dreaming and pragmatically approach the issue of drug legalisation. It has worked in portugal. Why is the UK different? Do the British public have a general necessity to be nannied more than other countries?

DaveHill responds:

How did they go about the process in Portugal? My sense is that it would be worth it in the end, but that there would be problems too. Perhaps I'll read this properly later.

Osbournecox suggests:

I've got three thoughts on this:
1. Crime trends suggest that the police, for all their faults, are actually doing a pretty good job. There are some areas for improvement such as rape convictions, street prostitution and drugs, but these are hard to tackle and require expertise not mayoral pronouncements.
2. People seemed to take a real interest in the street level crime data published last year. Instead of police walking around to create perceptions of safety at great expense I would like to see them using the stats as a platform for real discussion with local communities. So both communities and police could better understand what's the problem, what's working and what both sides could do to contribute to improvements.
3. The met horse leasing scheme should be transparent and open to all.

DaveHill responds:

Thanks for your contributions. You might like this Paddick campaign initiative.

Pagey suggests:

"A revision of the requirements for entry to the Met - higher educational standards would (I hope) get a better type of applicant and this should be coupled with mores stringent criteria for promotion. All applicants for senior positions should be required to be educated to degree level - not currently the case."
But that would automatically put a ceiling on the aspirations of serving officers who didn't have the chance to go to university. And I can imagine their resentment when some flash Harry, straight out of Hendon, spends a few months on the beat, then is parachuted into a cosy middle management position.

DaveHill responds:

Hello (belatedly). This debate about multiple entry levels influenced what I thought a rather good and underpublicised report about equality of career progression in the Met. Kit Malthouse made a rather good argument in favour. But, yes, I can imagine the resentment too. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to
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