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Interview: Deputy Mayor says Met needs officers and analysts

Ahead of the May 2020 London Mayor Election, Police Oracle spoke to Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden about and MOPAC?s policing priorities and commitments into a potential second term under Sadiq Khan.
Published - 11/03/2020 By - Chloe Livadeas

Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden has championed Sadiq Khan's investment in the Violent Crime Taskforce, wants to keep a station open in every borough and believes the Met can cut crime by the end of the force's recruitment uplift in three years’ time. 

On the uplift numbers, Ms Linden said MOPAC fully supported the Commissioner Cressida Dick’s request of 6,000 extra officers.

She said: “We’ve got to be really clear that it is not just police officers that are going to make the difference in London. We’ve got to make sure that we get an uplift in staff as well.”

Ms Linden said the last administration “drastically cut” the numbers of other staff in the Met, such as analysts.

“We’ve got to make sure officers on the street have the right support back at the police station and that means proper analysts and really good support staff – they are part of the fabric of policing London as well,” she said.

She said: “I think the Met have done a really good job of getting out onto the streets and suppressing the violence and part of that is through the money that the Mayor has given to Met to set up the Violent Crime Taskforce."

Since April 2018, Mr Khan has provided £15m annually for the taskforce.

Ms Linden said she was “not at all complacent” and the number of homicides in London was still “far, far too high”.

Speaking last month at the NPCC and APCC Summit in London, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, told police chiefs that they would be held to account three years from now if they had not cut crime.

Ms Linden believes this goal is achievable, but warns of the dangers of a target culture in policing.

She said: “PCCs, including myself, are absolutely part of driving performance. For the Met we’ve set directions of travel of wanting to see reductions in various areas and setting priorities. 

But she went on to say “pulling numerical targets out of the air can actually be very counterproductive and can really skew behaviour”.

Ms Linden also said she thought it was “extraordinary” that Ms Patel did not stay to answer questions from PCCs as previous Home Secretaries had done at past summits.

She said the Metropolitan Police were already beginning to see the signs that violent crime was reducing, and said that knife crime in under 25s and gun crime had gone down.

“So yes, of course it’s possible but the real question is what’s the best way of ensuring progress and ensuring really good performance? I think there’s some dangers to setting numerical targets. You have to be really careful,” she said.

According to Ms Linden a second term under Mr Khan would see continuing investment in the Violence Reduction Unit and the “public health approach of enforcement and early intervention and prevention”.

Ms Linden said cuts to services that support the vulnerable “absolutely makes a difference in terms of the violence that we’re seeing on the streets”.

Ms Linden said the government’s own research has pointed out to minsters that “police officers matter”.

A Home Office study published last week, which looked at officer numbers and murder levels since 2014, stated that "more police officers means fewer homicides... if all else is equal".

Ms Linden said an "incredibly important" aspect of Mr Khan's first manifesto that would be continued going forward was "improving and increasing" neighbourhood policing.

“I think everyone could see the links of the system of policing from the neighbourhood officer all the way up to counterterrorism and supporting each part of the police system and the police family,” she said.

The Deputy Mayor said despite the lift of the force's policy to only recruit from residents of the capital in 2018, the Met’s recruitment was still attracting many Londoners.

Ms Linden said: “Obviously, we'd like to have many of Londoners as possible. We want the Met to look like the communities they serve. And that is important. But we have also got to make sure that the training they get and the support they get in policing London is top notch. And that's what we'll continue.”

Speaking during a London Assembly Q&A alongside the Commissioner and the Chief of Corporate Services, Robin Wilkinson, at the beginning of last month, Ms Linden said a review of the Met’s estates was underway. Recommendations of which police buildings should be kept and which should be disposed of in order to invest elsewhere were due to be presented to the Deputy Mayor at the end of February.

But Ms Linden said this “difficult review” was still ongoing.

She said MOPAC expected the Met to come forward with proposals around what buildings they know they will not need, regardless of the final number of new recruits they will receive this year.

Ms Linden said MOPAC’s commitment to a 24 hours front counter police station in every London borough would continue. 

But she said: “The Met has moved, as all forces have moved, into making sure their officers are more mobile so they can do a lot of the business without having to come back to the police station.

She added: “There's always going to be a need for officers to start their work somewhere to end their day somewhere. So we are always going to need police buildings in that sense.”

Ms Linden said she did not think the Conservative Candidate Shaun Bailey’s plans to re-open all the front counters closed under Khan would be a good investment of the police budget.

She said: “You have to take some really difficult decisions when you're Mayor and the Mayor did take some difficult decisions around the closure of front counters in order to prioritise frontline policing and that's always going to be the priority is to make sure you've got as many as many officers as possible out on the frontline and investing in as many as possible.”

One of the only policing pledge that Mr Khan’s has announced in the run up to the election is that he would commission and independent review into all of London’s public institutions, including the Met.

Ms Linden said: “People talk a lot - and rightly so - about the importance of the trust and confidence of the police.

“It’s really a commission that will look at what is driving this, what are the solutions, and what can be done. So of course you've got to get it right for policing.

"You’ve also got to get it right for local government, the health service and City Hall other areas,” she said.

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