Mayor’s pledge to restore neighbourhood policing is merely ‘window dressing’ for cuts
Residents warn: “Let’s hope the Mayor is not taking a leaf out of the previous mayor’s book – robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
12 January, 2017 — By William McLennan
Sadiq Khan with Sophie Linden and borough commander Catherine Roper
THE Mayor of London’s high-profile pledge to bolster the number of bobbies on the beat has been further knocked by claims that it will amount to a “net gain of zero” additional police officers.
Sadiq Khan toured the streets of Kentish Town last week to promote his move to introduce an extra constable in every policing ward in the capital.
Mr Khan said it would “restore real neighbourhood policing”, which was a key part of the manifesto that saw him elected in May last year.
But it was yesterday (Wednesday) described as “window dressing” as it emerged that, while introducing an additional “dedicated ward officer”, each neighbourhood will be losing the equivalent of one constable who had done vital investigatory work such as gathering CCTV evidence and witness statements.
It is believed that many wards will end up with fewer officers in their neighbourhood team, but those remaining will be less likely to be called away to work at protests and sporting events in other parts of the capital.
Susan West, who chairs the Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Panel, said: “We should not forget the not-so-loudly trumpeted axing of the support PCs who have up to now provided vital behind-the-scenes backup to the bobbies on the beat – freeing up Safer Neighbourhood PCs to keep their boots on our pavements and not tied up with paperwork back at base.”
She added: “Let’s hope the Mayor is not taking a leaf out of the previous mayor’s book – robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Chris Fagg, chairman of the Gospel Oak panel, described the move as the “Mayor’s cost-cutting window-dressed as support for neighbourhood policing”. While he is confident that two “dedicated ward officers” – known as DWOs – can cope in Gospel Oak, which has relatively low levels of crime, he said it was “hard to see how two DWOs will handle highcrime wards”.
He said it was “time for communities to unite in holding the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor to account and demand a responsive, flexible and local police service”.
Speaking to the New Journal at a playground on the Peckwater Estate, Mr Khan said: “What you will see now is more dedicated ward officers. The public will see more officers.”
He 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”.
The move had already drawn criticism as it came at the same time as an inspector and five sergeants, who were responsible for managing neighbourhood officers in Camden, were axed.
Police teams in Camden and Islington were merged this month, which also led to the loss of some senior management positions.
Sophie Linden, the deputy mayor for policing and crime, said: “The safety of Londoners is the Mayor’s first priority and this starts with a return to real neighbourhood policing. This means effective and trusted officers who know and are known by the communities they serve.
“The Mayor is on track to deliver an additional dedicated police officer in every London neighbourhood by the end of this year, guaranteeing a minimum of two dedicated PCs and one dedicated PCSO in every one of the capital’s wards. Their positions are ring-fenced so they can focus on tackling crime in their community, rather than being moved to other duties elsewhere in the capital.”
The Mayor’s Office said: “Under the previous mayor, dedicated ward police teams were reduced to one dedicated PC and one PCSO. Other neighbourhood officers in the borough were not ringfenced and could routinely be called away from the area to other duties.”