More 'visible' policing on London's streets to help restore trust, Met Chief tells LBC

18 July 2023, 09:29

Sir Mark Rowley said there would be more 'visible' policing on the streets of London
Sir Mark Rowley said there would be more 'visible' policing on the streets of London. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Asher McShane

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told LBC that there would be "more visible" policing on the streets of London as he works to restore trust in the force.

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Speaking to Tom Swarbrick, Sir Mark told LBC there would be “more visible policing on the streets of London” and that officers would be “listening to local communities” more.

“Community policing is at the centre of how we’re going to succeed," he said.

“We’re strengthening the presence of officers in community teams. We’re recruiting the extra 500 PCSOs and we’re going to give the local leadership teams more influence over policing in London.

On lack of trust in the force, he said: “Trust is dented, it hasn’t gone away.

Read more: Met to treat male predators the same as terrorists in £366 million plan to overhaul force

“I need to get rid of the negatives in the organisation. The way we build trust is through positive work with communities fighting crime.”

Paraphrasing Richard Taylor, the father or schoolboy Damilola Taylor who was killed in London in 2000 aged just 10, Sir Mark said: “If we don’t build trust between police and communities, the only people who win… are the criminals.

“We’re creating that momentum to bring people together, and fight crime in local communities.”

On rooting out corrupt police from the force, Sir Mark said there are some “ghastly” cases coming forward because more officers are now willing to report colleagues.

“I’ve been clear that I’ve got… hundreds who should not be here,” he said.

His comments come after it was announced that the Metropolitan Police will investigate male predators the same way as terrorists under fresh plans to overhaul the force.

The Met has started using the Cambridge Crime Harm Index to assess 35,000 offenders reported to the force each year for crimes against women and girls, in order to rank the 100 who pose the highest risk to the public.

The tactic is being used in a bid from the force to rebuild its reputation following a series of scandals and a review which found it was racist, misogynist and homophobic.

Plans to overhaul the force - a £366 million two-year scheme dubbed A New Met for London - are being launched with visits to every borough in the capital, starting in Peckham.

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "It's taking the organised crime or terrorism approach to male predatory violence."

"If we go after them proactively, build a case against them, get them off the streets, that protects women and children in London, so that's an indicator of something more innovative, more front-footed, and how we reform how we police London," he said in an interview on Monday.

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Sir Mark Rowley discusses community policing

Bosses say there will be an increased emphasis on neighbourhood policing in a bid to rebuild public trust.

Some 240 officers out of the Met's total workforce of around 34,000 will be moved from central to local teams.

There are also plans to recruit 500 more community support officers (PCSOs) and an extra 565 people to work with teams investigating domestic abuse, sexual offences and child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Each borough will have at least one front counter open 24 hours a day under the proposals.

During austerity from 2010 onwards, local borough teams were cut so that between two and four boroughs were covered by one basic command unit.

Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said: "I think there was a risk in making those choices.

"We did step away from the local and we recognise the need to have more of a geographical focus."

Nick Ferrari puts Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on the spot about the future of the Met Police

Asked if people would see more officers on the beat and more police stations opening, Sir Mark replied "all of those things".

He added that it was "not acceptable" that some community officers are not within walking distance of their patch.

Sir Mark added: "One of the strands of our plan is called 'fixing foundations', getting all the basic engineering, in terms of training and equipment for officers right, as a part of that we're looking again at our estate strategy.

"I'm concerned that some of our officers, particularly our community officers, aren't within walking distance of their patch, that's not acceptable, so that's why we're looking at that.

"So it all comes back to that cornerstone, the community policing team, dedicated ward officers, the PCSOs - we're increasing them by 500 this year - that team, the relationship with local community, knowing what the big issues are, fixing them and calling in the specialists behind them when they need them."

There have been a series of scandals around the culture in the Met, including the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, Pc David Carrick being exposed as a serial rapist, and two officers being jailed for sharing pictures of the bodies of two murder victims.

Sir Mark, who previously said there were hundreds of officers in the Met who should have been kicked off the force, said bosses are "sacking and suspending more officers than ever before".

He said: "I've got a minority of my people I need to sort out, and we're doing that as rapidly and as quickly as we can do."

The rate of domestic burglaries now being attending by a police officer across the Met's area has risen to "somewhere high in the 90%", compared with 50% last year, Sir Mark added.

But he said "funding is an issue" in terms of the pace of change people want, and added that a 27% increase in funding is required to match 2012 levels in real terms, an additional £878 million investment.

Shelagh Fogarty marvels at Sir Mark Rowley's rejection of the Met being institutionally racist

Asked if he will stick to the September deadline to stop answering emergency 999 calls about mental health, he said there are "really constructive round-table conversations taking place with NHS partners" and they will be going ahead in the autumn "on or around September 1".

"I should reassure Londoners, if somebody is in danger, if someone's at physical risk, there's always a role for police officers to turn up and deal with that immediate threat of violence, so we're not going to back away from that," he said.

"If the cause of that violence though is someone in a mental health crisis, what we need to be able to do, which is in line with national policy and NHS policy, is hand over that individual that is in crisis to the NHS as quickly as possible."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "As Mayor, I’ve been determined to shine a spotlight on the true extent of the performance and cultural problems within the Met.

"This pressure has resulted in a new Commissioner, Baroness Casey’s review and now this new plan from the new Commissioner to address the deep-rooted issues that have been exposed.  

"We’ve already ensured progress is underway with a new leadership team at the Met committed to change.

"This new plan is an important step on the road to reform - putting the Met on a path of far-reaching systematic and cultural reform, which will mean police officers unfit to serve always being dealt with robustly, stricter checks to become a police officer, greater support for victims of crime and a real focus on neighbourhood policing.

"I’m determined to ensure the Met rebuilds trust with Londoners and takes a new and encouraging community-first approach, where police officers listen, understand and respond to the needs and concerns of London’s communities, particularly those who have been let down for far too long. 

"Londoners will rightly judge this plan on actions not words, and I will be unflinching in holding the Met and the Commissioner to account and supporting him to deliver.

"The Met has many committed, professional police officers and staff who want to be part of this change.

"I see police reform as a critical part of my mayoralty and I will not be satisfied until Londoners have the police service they deserve – one that is trusted, representative of London and delivers the highest possible service to every community in our city as we continue to build a safer London for everyone."

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