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Mayors have not played politics with policing, says retiring Met Commissioner

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who announced his retirement unexpectedly, claims no politician has acted in a partisan manner
Published - 29/09/2016 By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle

The outgoing Met Police Commissioner said mixing politics and policing was a “really silly idea”, as he answered questions about his retirement from the force.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who has announced he is retiring seven months before the end of his recently extended contract, dismissed speculation his relationship with the new Mayor of London caused his departure.

London Assembly member Steve O’Connell claimed: “It has been clear for some time that Sadiq Khan would push out Sir Bernard, not because he has a better option lined up or because Sir Bernard had failed at his job, but because Khan believes that doing so would make him look strong.”

At a meeting last week Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden said such claims were “absolutely preposterous” and praised the commissioner.

Asked on LBC Radio if the new mayor was the reason why he left, Sir Bernard replied: “Not at all. I’ve a really good, close relationship with the mayor and the deputy mayor, Sophie Linden.

“I had a great relationship with Boris Johnson and his deputy Stephen [Greenhalgh] too.

He added: “Nobody wants to play politics with police, it’s a really silly idea to do that, and I’ve never found it.”

Sir Bernard denied to the Press Association that the timing of his decision was anything to do with the forthcoming publication of a report into Operation Midland, the investigation into claims that public figures sexually abused boys more than 30 years ago.

The 16-month probe was closed in March without a single arrest and Sir Bernard called in former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques to examine its handling.

On LBC the former Merseyside chief constable and HMI said he simply felt the time was right to leave, although he hinted he was not confident there would be no further cuts to police budgets, despite last year's government pledge.

He said: “There are big changes coming partly because we’re going to have less money, partly as we get new ideas.”

Sir Bernard expressed regret at the number of police staff jobs that were cut under his leadership but said it was the right thing to do and he was proud to have kept officer numbers up.

He added: “For all the things I went through, I’m really proud of my people.”

Sir Bernard, who will leave as the longest serving commissioner since Sir Paul Condon’s seven-year stint ended in 2000, began at the Met in 2011 just after that year’s riots and the phone hacking scandal, with the London Olympics looming.

Among the things he has attempted to change is to bring more ethnic minority officers in to the force at all ranks. He banned the recruitment of officers who live outside the capital, and those who do not speak a second language. His repeated calls for a 50:50 recruitment quota for white and non-white recruits were rebuffed by government, however.

Credited by an academic as being the individual responsible for making direct entry work in British policing, he has on the other hand opposed other reforms such as turning policing into a degree-based profession and special constables being able to hold regular rank.

Some have suggested that strong-willed Sir Bernard wanted to leave now to ensure his departure was on his own terms.

Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh told PoliceOracle.com: “I can’t fault him much. He maintained officer numbers unlike forces in the rest of the country, and on terrorism he recognised the need for an armed officer uplift.

“He always listened to the federation since I’ve been the chairman, although he didn’t always agree.

“It’s an incredibly hard job to be commissioner, being responsible for nine million people and if it does go wrong it falls on your shoulders," he added.

Those who are speculated to be candidates to succeed him include NPCC chairman Sara Thornton, Foreign Office official and former Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, and current Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton retired from that post for a second time just two weeks ago. He was sounded out for the position prior to Sir Bernard’s appointment.

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