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The Commissioner and his vision of the 'New Met' meet the public

Chris Hobbs attends a meeting in which the Commissioner tries to sell his vision of "a new Met" to a curious audience.

The Commissioner and his vision of the 'New Met' meet the public

Date - 11th August 2023
By - Chris Hobbs
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This was the third public meeting organised by the Met, that I’d attended since retirement and the memories of the previous two did not augur well for the third.

The first was at Ealing Town Hall under the auspices of Boris’s reign and present was his policing deputy, Stephen Greenhalgh. Similar meetings were held in each London borough during this period; they were all poorly advertised with an average attendance of just 78. The objective of these meetings was to inform Londoners of forthcoming cuts which involved, we were told, cuts to community policing and probably police station closures. Little wonder that the borough commander sat there looking crestfallen.

The second meeting, under Mayor Khan, was also attended by his deputy, Sophie Linden. Again, it was poorly advertised and held in a smaller room at Ealing Town Hall. We were addressed by the Superintendent who told us about identifying suitable police ‘bases.’

Interruptions from the audience brought forth the news that the public would not have access to these bases and gradually it began to dawn on those assembled that we were looking at the closure of both Ealing and Southall police stations. However, we were assured ‘response times wouldn’t be affected.’

This was the cue for open rebellion by the audience who were lass that happy with that which was being presented to them. In the event, both Ealing and Southall remain operational and are likely to remain so.

The Welcome

This meeting however, to discuss the ‘New Met,’ was different in that the organisation appeared to actually want people to attend and the result was a much bigger audience at West London University than on previous occasions.

The welcome was much better too. Smiling officers checked our tickets and my ego was boosted when the officer checking me in commented; ‘We all follow you on twitter.’

Once we were in, we were greeted by a Met dog handler in the company of two spaniels who were clearly enjoying life. Various stalls were clearly visible and included one where complimentary mini-‘attack’ alarms and torches were on offer. There were also refreshments.

The meeting.

The meeting rather belatedly got under way and the main speaker was clearly the current Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley. The theme of his presentation was the ‘turnaround,’ of the Met following its recent difficult period and he acknowledged that confidence in the force had suffered and that ‘trust’ needed to be rebuilt.

Stating the precise details of his plans for the ‘turnaround,’ would make this piece too unwieldy but those details can be found here.  

The theme throughout his presentation and that of other senior officers on the platform, was that the Met would be more responsive to the needs and wishes of Londoners and that there would be a return to effective neighbourhood policing assisted by the recruitment of 500 PCSOs. Also welcomed was the promise that it would be easier to contact the Met; I’ve yet to meet anyone who speaks favourably of the 101 system.

My eyebrows were, however raised a little by the rosy picture painted of current crime. Good to hear that homicides are down, prosecutions of sexual offenders have increased and the burglary clear-up rate has improved. Reference was also made to the England and Wales Crime Survey which shows a downward trend in crime. That survey could be criticised in that those responding tend to be Mr and Mrs Nice from Nicetown.

The reality of the current situation can perhaps be better illustrated by the shocking British Retail Crime Survey which tends to support the theory that shoplifting has been decriminalised while shop staff are increasingly vulnerable to abuse and attack.

No mention either of the fact that each drug deal is a crime as is simple possession. In my part of London, open drug dealing can be seen on the streets as can the act of ‘using.’

Also a factor are the crimes committed by London’s street gangs involving stabbings and assaults many of which are never reported to police but details of which can be found on the normally reliable You Tube gang news and documentary ‘channels.’

We will listen.

Having said that, implicit in the new Met vision is that the Met will listen. Again, in my part of London there has been a response to the issue of increased drug dealing, using, street drinking, theft and anti-social behaviour. The problem is that the police ‘jam,’ is too thinly spread across the demands that are placed upon it. The Commissioner rightly pointed to the abstractions of officers from their normal duties due to the activities of Just Stop Oil. Even the freeing up of police time by the refusal of the Met to deploy officers to non-life- threatening mental health issues is unlikely to thicken that jam to the extent necessary.

It also remains to be seen the reaction of the Met’s hierarchy, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the media and the public when the refusal to respond to a mental health/ welfare 999 call results in the death of an individual. ‘Thrown under a bus,’ is a common phrase in police parlance for when a ‘lowly’ officer or indeed staff-member is perceived to have been unfairly subjected to misconduct proceedings.

I’ve heard that an interim plan is for firefighters to attend calls linked to mental health issues. That, in itself, if correct, throws up a number of issues worthy of debate.

The Commissioner’s commitment to neighbourhood policing is hopefully illustrated by his realisation that safer neighbourhood teams need to be based within their communities or close to them.

Discipline and welfare

Sir Mark also made clear his determination to rid the Met of officers who were part of the ‘toxic culture,’ so often referred to. However, unlike his previous utterings, there was a much more balanced approach here in that he frequently referred to his many thousands of excellent officers. His previous constant reference to ‘hundreds,’ had created an impression that when a member of the public had contact with a Met officer especially a male officer, it was almost inevitable that he or she would believe that the officer in question was either corrupt, misogynistic, homophobic or racist or perhaps a combination of any two or more.

Less positively, the Commissioner also alluded to the fact that he wishes police regulations changed in order that officers could be more easily sacked. It is perhaps unfortunate that a current case against a Met commander an allegation has been made that he is known as ‘the sacker,’ for his uncompromising stance when heading discipline boards. The fear is that the removal of the independent Chair from these discipline boards would lead to unfair hearings where there would be a presumption of guilt

The Commissioner made reference to officer welfare and one aspect of that was the poor standard of Met police uniform. He mentioned that luckless officer standing on a police cordon at 3am in February clad in inadequate clothing. Clearly front-line officers can look to major improvements in the not- too- distant future.

Improved accessibility

Ealing’s BCU Commander, Chief Superintendent Sean Wilson, responded to a question concerning the opening of police front counters; the only accessible point of face- to- face contact in the brough is Acton Police Station which is more convenient for the residents of Shepherds Bush than most of Ealing. He correctly pointed out that to staff 24- hour front counters would be too resource intensive but went on to say that options are being investigated to improve accessibility.

Another question or perhaps more of an observation from the floor was the fact that senior officers visible on the platform were all white, middle-aged males. In a similar vein, another questioner stated that most of the audience present were over 30 and the Met needed to relate to the younger generation.

I opted not to join the scramble to ask questions of the Commissioner but would have focussed on the plight of the PBR (Poor Bloody Response) officers including their vulnerability due to inadequate numbers of officers covering shifts plus their being allocated crimes to investigate. Sir Mark had already expressed concerns in respect of being 1,000 officers short of the Met’s establishment figure.

The evening continues.

At the end of the presentation, Sir Mark posed for selfies and chatted to those who approached him. He was talking to an individual who I know and after handing the ‘boss,’ my business card (which I know he probably won’t glance at) I joined in the conversation. I have been somewhat critical of Sir Mark in the past, but found him extremely personable.

He asked about my service and the other participant in the conversation suggested that the Met should rehire me; Sir Mark diplomatically pointed out that the Met were encouraging retired officers to return who had been retired for less than five years.

The Commissioner then referred to the bureaucracy surrounding case papers indicating, using his forefinger and thumb, how thin a file was when he was a front-line line officer and how ludicrously thick a file of case papers was today.

I was hoping to diplomatically raise the question of Met ‘Comms,’ and enquire why the force was so poor on getting the positive side of policing ‘out there,’ to the general public but ladies politely requesting a selfie ended my conversation. If he noticed my TBL pin badge he made no reference to it.

After a short break we were then guided into ‘breakdown’ rooms with mine being labelled ‘trust.’ On the tables were large sheets of paper where we were invited to give our views on a question. On my table was the question as to why, ‘I didn’t trust the police.’ It caused me some head-scratching but my response was that whilst I generally trusted individual officers, I didn’t trust the police to deliver the service that I would expect.

I then met and enjoyed a chat with two members of the Independent Advisory Group who have close links to Jamaica; a country in which I had the privilege of working for a total of eighteen months.

Despite generally being rather cynical in respect of the hierarchy and organisation of the Met, I felt that the meeting was successful and that there is some hope for policing in the future.

However, during the last 18 months police have been told that they need to do more in respect of domestic violence, sexual offences including rape and indeed violence against women and girls (VAWG) in all its forms, burglary, grooming gangs, stalking, harassment human trafficking, retail crime, missing persons county lining, moped crime, hate crime, fraud, e-scooters, knife crime, motor vehicle crime and now, again, mobile phone theft which has resulted in a recently announced initiative from the Met.

As alluded to above, the question is, how much jam is there in the pot?  

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Ordered by:
paul webb - Mon, 14 August 2023

So let me get this right the Met has been the subject of a hostile report following the demise of Cressida Dick's tenure.
So the answer is to get Rowley and all his Met senior officer acolytes to save the day.
Were they not in charge at some stage when all this was going wrong.
The answer might be to look outside the Met and its incestuous senior officers
I was going to suggest Stephen Watson but even he has done a 4 year stint in the Met 2011-15. So not sure if he has been tainted by association.
Meanwhile apart from his continual whinging about his inability to sack hundreds of his officers and licking the poison dwarf shoes what has he actually done to get the Met back on track to doing the day job of protecting life and property and preventing and detecting crime.
On the face of it Bob all