Sir Paul Stephenson, the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has repeated his call that police officers should patrol singly rather than walk along in twos. This is welcome. Too often, when you do see police officers or police community support officers patrolling on foot, you see two or more officers walking along – deep in conversation with each other.
It is has been the pattern for many years that in most areas of London police patrol in pairs ostensibly for officer safety reasons. While I have some sympathy with this in certain specific areas, I am sure in most cases the safety requirement would be met by officers patrolling close to each other but not actually walking together – eg by being on opposite sides of the street. This would mean that they were more likely to engage with passers-by (rather than just talk to each other) and would increase the sense of presence and public safety.
So it is good to hear Sir Paul’s commitment. However, I also remember his two predecessors making similar promises and nothing happened. It will be an interesting test of the new Commissioner to see whether he can actually make good on this patrolling promise. If he can, he will clearly have achieved something that evaded Sir Ian Blair and Sir John Stevens (now Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington).