Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE has today called for an investigation into reports that Metropolitan police officers have been issued with arrest and stop and search targets. Mrs Arnold’s call follows a Channel 4 investigation which found that officers in one London borough had been issued with targets which she argued would disproportionately impact upon BAME communities and result in an increased breakdown of trust in the police.
The Channel 4 report alleged that leaked documents had shown that officers in one London borough were “expected to arrest at least two people every month, as well as to stop and search at least four. They were also ordered to issue at least one penalty notice or get a case to charge stage and to make a minimum of four entries in the force’s intelligence database.” Under questioning from Ms Arnold at today’s London Assembly Police and Crime Committee Assistant Met Commissioner Craig Mackey denied the reports and said the Met was “absolutely clear” that targets of this kind should not be used.
Despite consistent denials from the Met, this is the third time in the last year that they have been accused of implementing arrest and stop and search targets. Ms Arnold is now calling for a full investigation to get to the bottom of the reports and to help reassure the public that officers are not carrying out unnecessary stop and searches to hit artificial targets.
Speaking after the Committee meeting, London Assembly Labour Group Equalities Spokesperson, Jennette Arnold OBE said:
“The allegations arising from Channel 4’s investigation are deeply concerning. All the evidence shows that stop and search disproportionately impact on minority communities, if targets are being set for their use that is going to have a big impact on trust in the police within those communities.
“Whilst the Assistant Commissioner’s reassurances are welcome, we must be clear that a return to the bad old days of stop and search targets will not be tolerated.
“This is the third time this year that serious concerns have been raised about stop and search targets which could do irreparable harm to community relations in the capital. What we need to see now is an investigation to get to the bottom of these reports and ensure that police officers, whether at a local or central level, are not being issued with arrest and stop and search targets.”
Latest figures show that forces in Hackney face a 8% vacancy rate; Islington 8%; and Waltham Forest 11%. This leaves Hackney without 17 sergeants and 35 constables; Islington without 9 sergeants and 38 constables; and Waltham Forest without 19 sergeants and 53 constables. Figures also show a £13.7m Met underspend on police officer pay, suggesting that that vacancies have been sitting open as part of a cost saving exercise.
New figures obtained by my colleague, Labour London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney, show that in May this year (the latest period available) there were 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables across the capital’s borough forces.
The high vacancy rates come on top of significant cuts in police numbers since the Government came to power, with official figures showing 171 police officers and PCSOs cut from Hackney’s streets; and 161 from Islington’s streets (although, conversely, an increase of 19 officers and PCSOs on Waltham Forest’s streets) between May 2010 and May 2014, and 4,694 from London’s streets overall. A report last year also found that the Met’s proportion of officers deemed ‘visible’ was the third lowest in England and Wales.
Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest are three of 14 London boroughs with vacancy rates of over 6%, with five facing double digit deficits, including Waltham Forest. Harrow is shown to have the highest percentage of vacancies, with 15% of its sergeant and constable posts unfilled. Waltham Forest had the highest overall number, with 72 vacancies from a force of 664.
The figures were revealed after HMIC warned that “forces across England and Wales plan to achieve most of their savings by reducing the number of police officers, PCSOs and police staff… most of the savings [of the MPS] come from reducing the size of the workforce.”
In his manifesto Boris Johnson pledged to put more officers on the beat. In reality what we have seen is a net decrease of 313 police officers and PCSOs cut from my constituency’s streets since this Government came to power. Now we learn that on top of that between 8%-11% of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest’s sergeants and constables are missing due to unfilled vacancies, that’s 171 extra officers who should be on the streets of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. It is an absolute scandal that police numbers have been allowed to fall this low, these vacancies are leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the our local police force.
Whilst a small churn in the number of officers is to be expected, these are deeply concerning figures. With 52 police officer positions unfilled in Hackney; 47 unfilled in Islington; and 72 in Waltham Forest, we need to ask not only what impact that has on policing, but why the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has allowed it to happen in the first place. Either the depth of officer morale is so low they are haemorrhaging officers, or these posts are being kept open to keep costs down. Either way the Mayor should take immediate action to ensure our police force is up to strength and vacancies are filled as quickly as possible.
- Police vacancy figures across London boroughs (as of 31 May 2014) were supplied in response to a question to the Mayor from Joanne McCartney AM. The combination of borough vacancies and neighbourhood policing team vacancies totalled 1,209.
- A breakdown of police vacancies by borough is available here.
- Actual police officer strength across London boroughs (as of May 2014) were published on London Datastore (figures are accessible via the raw data link, and then by clicking on Police Officers and Staff Numbers, by Borough/Business Unit).
- The MPS has the third lowest proportion of officers that are deemed ‘visible’ in England and Wales 2013-14, at 52%. (Value for Money Profiles, HMIC, November 2013, p 43).
- HMIC warned that “… most of the savings [of the MPS] come from reducing the size of the workforce.” In its report Responding to Austerity – Metropolitan Police Service (p 16).
- The June 2014 MOPAC monitoring report stated that there was a £13.7m underspend on police officer pay in 2013/14 (MOPAC Monthly Report to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee – June 2014, Appendix One, p 6).