Ten years ago today the Metropolitan Police Authority assumed its functions taking over from the Home Secretary the role of police authority for London.
I have found a speech I made at the time and it is interesting to see what my vision was then as the Authority’s first Chair and also to note how much some things have changed since then (although some remain the same).
Ten years ago I said:
“For the first time since Sir Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary, founded the Metropolitan Police over 170 years ago, a new Metropolitan Police Authority has taken over the responsibility for overseeing the Metropolitan Police Service from his successor, the present Home Secretary.
This Authority, working with the Commissioner, is dedicated to ensuring that the Metropolitan Police Service delivers its present mission, to make London safe for all its people and in doing so treat everyone fairly, by being open and honest, and by continually seeking to improve the service provided to the public.
There are enormous challenges facing the Metropolitan Police. Whilst burglary rates are falling, street crime is rising. Clear up rates are perceived as too low, police priorities are not always what local communities feel they should be in their respective areas and too often we will still hear people saying that the police are nowhere to be seen when they are needed.
When the report of the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence was published, it seemed to confirm what many people then felt: the Police were seen too often as being incompetent, insensitive and unintentionally racist.
The respect that too many Londoners had for the Police was probably then at an all-time low. I believe it has improved since then, given the enormous effort by the Police Service at all levels to respond positively to the criticisms levelled at them. And it is, of course, the case that the Police are more highly regarded by and large than say politicians or local councils!
In recent times, police numbers have fallen and the Metropolitan Police’s recruitment drive has not even been keeping pace with the number of officers who are leaving the Service. A substantial shortfall has been anticipated and there have been fears that the Police Service will be below the strength required to police London effectively by the end of this year. This is a reflection of pay that was unattractive, given the high cost of living in London. According to the Met’s follow up of people interested in a career in the Service they were being put off by the high cost of housing and transport.
That, of course, is the bad news. But let us be clear, every Londoner wants the Metropolitan Police Service to be successful and effective – everyone that is except the criminals, the vandals and those who enjoy causing disorder.
The new Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) has a heavy responsibility. The over-riding task of the new Authority, together with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, must be to make sure that London gets the Police Service that it deserves – a Service that is effective in tackling crime and disorder and winning the confidence and the support of all those who live and work in this wonderful, diverse, vibrant city of ours.
This will mean, in particular, cutting street crime drastically and reducing drug-related incidents significantly. It will mean making our streets safer and making all of us feel more secure in our homes. Indeed, I believe that this Authority’s success or failure will be judged on whether crime in London is reduced and the Metropolitan Police achieves its stated objective of making London the safest major city in the world.”
I also said – and this was long before neighbourhood policing or the Policing Pledge (now abandoned by the Coalition Government):
“The public have got to have confidence in their Police Service and the way to achieve that is through mutual respect and partnership. The public have got to feel that the Police, like any other public service, is there to help them and ready to respond appropriately. And that means individually, every police officer has got to show respect to individual members of the public, regardless of race, gender, colour, creed or sexuality.
But in turn, tackling crime has got to be seen as a partnership – a partnership between the police and the public and between the police and other agencies, such as local councils. Local communities know where local crime hot spots are and have a fund of information. The public need to tell the police when they see something suspicious and need to have the confidence that what they say will be acted on seriously, sensitively and effectively. They need to know who their local beat officers are and how to contact them. I believe these beat officers must be at the centre of London’s policing – men and women who understand the local area, are seen as part of the community, and who are accessible and can stop trouble before it gets started.”