Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

Last week I was delighted to see my Twitter feed filled with people celebrating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. More than 130 countries around the world held events to recognise this special day.

But despite the growing dialogue around homophobia and transphobia, sadly the number of crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people in London has risen significantly.

And though Boris Johnson is said to be ‘committed to tackling hate crimes in all its forms’, he needs to significantly up his efforts in his final year as mayor if we are to eliminate these horrendous acts.

Figures from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) show that since 2012 transphobic hate crime has grown by 72 per cent. Meanwhile, last year alone saw the number of homophobic hate crimes reported in London rise by 20 per cent, with over 100 incidents reported every month. Not only are these figures very alarming, it deeply saddens me to see people being attacked because of who they are.

Boris Johnson once said that he wanted London ‘to be the safest global city on earth’. If he is to achieve this aim he needs to place tackling homophobic hate crime amongst his top priorities. Only by doing so will Londoners have the confidence to report these crimes, safe in the knowledge that the police will have the capacity to respond appropriately to their needs.

The mayor’s Police and Crime Plan acknowledges that levels of hate crime are high and there remains a significant issue with under reporting. I welcome the mayor’s plan to appoint designated Hate Crime liaison officers in every borough.

Dedicated officers, working with LGBT communities, have huge potential to improve public confidence, which in turn could see more people reporting hate crime. Boris Johnson set 2016 as his deadline to appoint these officers in every London borough, and I’m going to be pushing him to make sure he delivers.

Boris Johnson talks the talk when it comes to eliminating hate crime, but his delivery is somewhat patchy. In December, the Mayor’s Hate Crime Reduction Strategy for London was published following discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service and Met Police. The Strategy aims to improve public confidence and increase reporting of hate crime. And whilst it contains 29 actions points set out to achieve just that, with no timetable for delivery it’s very unclear whether we will see any positive results any time soon.

The mayor can pay all the lip service he has to tackling hate crime, but unless the police have the correct resources their chances of eliminating these abhorrent offences will be limited.  To improve their chance of success, it’s imperative that police officers receive the appropriate training to help carry out action against hate crime perpetrators and provide support to victims of hate crime.

With £800 million worth of cuts expected over the next few years, there is a risk that their efforts will be significantly undermined. It is the mayor’s responsibility to ensure that these cuts do not fall too heavily on any particular group.

We live in, arguably, the most diverse city in the world. It is difficult to comprehend that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are still inflicted on members of our community.

Boris Johnson has just one year left to serve as mayor. This is his opportunity to tackle hate crime. This is his opportunity to show he is more than just empty words. I sincerely hope he does not let LGBT Londoners down.

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.”

ENDS

Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE AM was left unimpressed by Mayor Boris Johnson’s apology at yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time for his ‘oversight’ when he failed to consult with local stakeholders about the planned closure of Waltham House Police Station on Kirkdale Road, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest.

The plans to close Waltham House came to light in mid-September, and led to a backlash from local representatives and residents because of the disregard the Mayor’s Office of Police and Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) gave for failing to consult them properly about the decision, and for putting financial gains above residents’ safety and confidence in policing.

When pressed on the proposed closure of Waltham House, specifically, Mr. Johnson said he was sorry “if there had been some oversight” when it came to communicating the plans. This will leave people concerned that not only was he unaware of the situation at Waltham House, but that he also fails to grasp the full extent of the frustration and upset that these plans have had on the people of Waltham Forest. Furthermore, when pressed to give an answer about plans to cut Contact Points around London, he failed to offer any reassurance, adding: “We’re reviewing them … but I’m afraid I can’t give you the answer”, which leads to concerns that more Contact Points across London could also be vulnerable.

Labour London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, said:

“When it comes to the proposed plans to close Waltham House Police Station, the Mayor’s apology for failing to communicate with local residents and representatives is flimsy, unacceptable and too little too late. I am deeply concerned that this conditional apology not only suggests that he wasn’t aware of the situation at Waltham House, but also fails to grasp the seriousness of the situation. He has been elected to represent the views of Londoners, and failing to communicate with the residents of Leytonstone and Waltham Forest about this important plan to close a local police station smacks of ineptitude and arrogance.

“The Mayor has agreed to write to me formally with an explanation and to outline his plans for Waltham House, and I look forward to receiving this as soon as possible so that people’s minds can be put at rest. Rest assured, I am not impressed by the Mayor’s handling of this situation, and will be doing all I can to ensure that the people of Leytonstone get a full explanation and, more importantly, have a police service that they need in the local area.”

ENDS

Notes

Jennette Arnold OBE is a Labour London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest

A video of Mayor’s Question Time from Wednesday 22 October where Boris Johnson was asked about Waltham House by the Chair of the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, Joanne McCartney, can be found here.

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.

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