The Independent London Newspaper
19th May 2019

London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejects warning that his extra bobbies plan will be undermined by loss of senior officers

    Sadiq Khan spoke to the New Journal during a visit to Kentish Town

    Published: 5 January, 2017

    LONDON Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday (Wednesday) dismissed concerns that cuts to senior police jobs would undermine his pledge to introduce an extra officer to every neighbourhood. 

    Mr Khan spoke to the New Journal as he hit the streets of Kentish Town alongside local officers to draw attention to a move to put an extra constable in every policing ward in the capital.

    It is a reversal of cuts made under Boris Johnson and the Labour mayor said that by returning extra “bobbies to the beat” he would “restore real neighbourhood policing”. 

    He said: “All the evidence is that real neighbourhood policing leads to us being safer, not only does it make us feel safer, but it is safer.”

    The plans, however, were announced last year in the same week that cuts to senior positions in Camden police were quietly pushed through, the New Journal revealed at the time. An inspector and five sergeants, who were responsible for managing neighbourhood officers, were scrapped in August to help fund an increase in armed officers. 

    Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who has campaigned against police cuts as the chairwoman of Frognal and Fitzjohn’s safer neighbourhoods panel, said: “The management of the wards is as important as boots on the ground. 

    “Having seen the work which sergeants have to do, I don’t know when they sleep.” 

    The structure of neighbourhood teams has been constantly tweaked in recent years and some sergeants are now left to manage four wards. 

    Police teams in Camden and Islington were merged this month, with the loss of some senior management positions. 

    Asked about the impacts of these management-level cuts, Mr Khan said: “The good thing about Camden and Islington is, by working closely together, we can reduce the bureaucracy and we can have more bobbies on the beat, more dedicated ward officers. So what you will see now is more dedicated ward officers. The public will see more officers.”

    Commander Catherine Roper, who for the first time is overseeing policing of both boroughs – a residential population of more than 400,000 – joined Mr Khan in the playground of the Peckwater Estate. 

    Asked if she was confident they had enough sergeants to manage the additional constables, she said: “I am. The decision where some of the sergeants and inspectors were removed from being dedicated to that particular area, that’s been made in accordance with risk, that’s been discussed with local authorities, it’s always been communicated with our communities as well. 

    “It’s not that there is no line manager resilience, it just means they are covering a slightly different geographical area because that’s what we are able to deliver.”

    Chris Fagg, chair of the Gospel Oak panel, said: “In my opinion there is a discussion to be had as to how many links in the chain can be removed before flexibility is lost.”

    Mr Khan said the additional officers “will be walking the pavements, visiting schools, speaking to shopkeepers, receiving intelligence from the public, finding out who are troubled families, somebody who needs help. 

    So far 295 wards across the capital, including Kentish Town and Cantelowes, have received additional “dedicated ward officers”, who have been moved from other parts of the Met and “ring-fenced” against being called away to other duties.



    Local policing

    In Gospel Oak, a relatively low-crime ward, we have just been advised by local police that police assistance will only be available for high priority problems and that residents should set (i.e. lower) their expectations accordingly. Very hard to see how two DWOs will handle high-crime wards. This is the Mayor's cost-cutting window-dressed as support for neighbourhood policing. Time for communities to unite in holding the Mayor and his Deputy Mayor to account and demand a responsive, flexible and local police service in close liaison with council services.

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