The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM DCiC*, Chair of the MPA and putative Deputy MOPC**, is in the Chair.
Most of the first hour of the meeting has been spent on two individual cases – one more than twenty years old (the murder of Daniel Morgan) and the second much more recent (the death of Smiley Culture during a police raid) – with a strong presence in the City Hall Gallery from members of the respective families and their supporters.
The emotions of both families were understandably raw. The Morgan family heard a clear apology from the Metropolitan Police for past failures and an agreement from the Authority to call for a judicial inquiry into the case, following the collapse of the recent prosecution. The other case is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, but elicited a commitment from the MPA Chair to meet the family and express condolences and to press the IPCC for a speedy and thorough investigation.
What was significant, of course, was that the Police were being visibly called to account in a public forum. (Apart from these two cases the meeting also spent considerable time on the length of time it took for Delroy Grant to be brought to justice for a a string of horrific rapes and assaults on vulnerable elderly people and the policing of the massive demonstration last Saturday.)
This visible answerability will disappear with the Government’s proposals to abolish Police Authorities and it is not clear that the new arrangements will provide any real substitute.
The Metropolitan Police will be accountable to the MOPC, but this accountability will essentially be conducted in private. The MOPC will be scrutinised by a committee of the London Assembly, but this will be a political forum and there will be no obligation on the Police to attend those sessions and answer questions.
It is the Government’s contention that accountability will be sharper and more effective as a result of the new structure.
However, like justice, accountability must not only be done but be seen to be done.
If there is no visible answerability, there is a real risk that anger and frustration will fester and police-community relations will suffer.
** Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime