Mayor’s Question Time: transcript 12th October 2017
Andrew Dismore AM: Can I ask about the detective shortage in the MPS, which has been a problem for some time, which clearly impacts on counter-terrorism as well. In the summer, it was reported the MPS was recruiting an additional 80 trainee detective constables with full police powers who have never worked as uniformed officers. Assistant Commissioner Gallan apparently wrote to every detective due to retire this year and asked them to stay on, as the force at that time was short of 748 detectives. The employment agency, reported as having set up its own office in Scotland Yard, is charging the MPS hundreds of thousands of pounds to recruit 77 detectives who have just retired on full pension and the reports of stressed detectives being bombarded with 20 cases at once who are quitting the role and going back to uniform, which is all pretty serious. Can you say how many detectives the MPS is currently short and what the barriers are, as you see them, to filling the vacancies and what progress is being made in recruiting detectives to fill those vacancies?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): There are a number of things we are doing to fill the vacancies of detectives. It is a nationwide issue, as you know, across England and Wales. You will be aware, and you referred to this in your question, Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey [QPM] wrote to retired detective constables in relation to them coming back to coach, coming back to be civilian detectives and other roles they could play. That is one of the things that the Deputy Commissioner did. Secondly, more coaching, more training of those who are police officers to train them up to be detectives. I appreciate your concerns about response time, but thirdly you will be aware of one of the advantages of the BCU is getting detectives doing complex cases. This is a national problem though and we are doing what we can. There are still shortages in London and that is one of the reasons why one of the operational advantages of the BCUs is detectives being able to do complex cases because of the mergers.
Andrew Dismore AM: How many are we short at present?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): There is a figure which I can send to you.
Andrew Dismore AM: Thank you.
2017/4008 – Demands on the Metropolitan Police Service requiring redeployment of officers
Andrew Dismore AM: Recent major incidents in the capital have imposed unprecedented demands on the Metropolitan Police Service, requiring redeployment of officers into the response to, and investigation of, these incidents from their usual duties, including from Borough Basic Command Units as well as specialist units. What is your assessment of the impact of this demand on the day in, day out policing needs of Londoners?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Assembly Member Dismore, you are quite right to point out the unprecedented demand placed on the MPS and I thank you for recognising this. I cannot stress enough just how challenging the current situation is and how important it is that the Government is made fully aware of the budgetary impact. As I have set out before, the MPS is facing a unique challenge of greatly reduced resourcing at a time of increasing demand. The change in nature of crime, the shift in the threat of terrorism, the impacts of large and complex investigations such as Grenfell Tower, and the rise in pernicious crimes like sexual violence, domestic abuse, acid attacks and moped crime. Set against this challenge is years of systematic budgetary cuts from the Government. Since 2012, the MPS has made over £600 million in savings and yet it now has to make another £400 million by 2021. Although I welcome the additional 1% pay-rise for police officers this year, without funding attached it merely represents an additional cost, which will lead to pressure elsewhere. Let me be clear, my first priority is to keep Londoners safe and I have done all I can to mitigate the impact of these cuts, increasing the policing council tax precept by the full 1.99%. Now the Government must do its bit. It is important to be honest and upfront with Londoners, the MPS funding has been cut in real terms year on year since 2012. London’s population has continued to rise and the MPS funding per head has fallen by 20% in the last five years, the highest of any police force in the country. The scale of this police funding crisis has already led to the loss of almost 3,000 police community support officers, most of the capital’s police station front counters, and 120 police buildings in order to protect frontline police officers. Officer numbers will fall and are now at risk of dipping below 30,000 for the first time since 2003, just as they are needed the most.
Andrew Dismore AM: Thank you for your comprehensive answer. As you say, the MPS is currently facing this huge demand due to the Grenfell Tower investigation, the six thwarted terrorist attacks, the four terrorist attacks that went through between March and September this year, the rise in crime, the 999 calls, and a number of other specialist investigations. There have been suggestions from some quarters that you should reconsider your target to have 32,000 officers in the Metropolitan Police Service in the light of this dire funding shortage the Conservative Government is inflicting on the Metropolitan Police Service. Already we have seen a fall of 941 officers since last year to just over 30,000, while overall crime is up 5.6%. Is a further cut in numbers something that you are actively considering and what would the impact be on the MPS’ ability to respond with even fewer officers to these unprecedented multiple pressures while also trying to keep London safe and the service operating in the boroughs?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): I think you have articulated it in your first question and in your current one, an understanding of some of the challenges we face as a global city. Just to give you a comparative contrast, I met the New York Commissioner of Police this week, population of 8.6 million in New York – we have 8.8 million – they have 36,000-plus officers. We have just over 30,000, as you alluded to. What I am saying to the Government is unless they guarantee additional funding, do a u-turn on the cuts they are planning, we will go below 30,000 probably in the course of the next 12 months, because when it comes to recruitment, we have to recruit months and months in advance. If it is the case I have no certainty of funding going forward, because police officers, as you know, cannot be made redundant, you cannot fire them – for very good reasons, by the way – we have to plan about not recruiting additional police officers. You raised the issue about the strategic target of 32,000 officers. If it is the case for the foreseeable future we are not going to have a change of heart from the Government, question, what is the point of having a target that will never be met?
Andrew Dismore AM: I think that is an important point and when officers are switched to these specialist investigations they are not new officers. However, officers from other teams who are being redeployed and they are being asked to do longer shifts and to cancel rest days. We know that the MPS has been extending eight-hour shifts to 12 hours to deal with the increased demand and some officers who have recently left have said that 12 hours is routinely being stretched to 16 hours. Do you think it is fair to ask officers to do these challenging hours and do you think the Government understands the scale of the problem their lack of funding for the police is causing?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Can I say, I would have hoped genuinely that a Prime Minister who was a former Home Secretary would get it because of spending so much time with police officers. Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, who is the President of the Police Superintendents’ Association, he said recently, “I suggest we have a perfect storm developing, comprised of fewer resources, reduced public services, new threats, and a widening increase in some types of traditional crime. If the model for delivering policing services in the future is fewer people working longer, each doing every more, then I suggest that model is fundamentally flawed.” I agree with him.
Andrew Dismore AM: Thank you.