Background – why the Turnaround Plan for Metropolitan Police is so important
The consultation on the Commissioner’s plan to reform the Metropolitan Police is the first time in two hundred years that the communities (plural) of London have been asked what they want from their police force. The plan shares the aspirations in Building a Safer London, the GLA/MOPAC Police and Crime Plan produced last year before relations between the Mayor of London and the then Met Police Commissioner broke down, but adds the missing dimension of implementation – and the people processes necessary for implementation. The plan was issued before the publication of report of the Baroness Casey Review but is also intended to facilitate the changes that will be needed in response.
The Turnaround Plan is what it says on the cover “This Plan is a working draft and to make it as strong as it can be, we want to listen and respond to the views of London’s communities, our partners, officers, staff and volunteers. An updated version of the Plan, incorporating feedback, will be published in April 2023”.
The plan should be seen as an attempt to return to the vision shared by Robert Peel with the Duke of Wellington. The Duke wanted the slums of London, (from which his peninsular army had been recruited), policed by consent, not by an occupying force, recruited from elsewhere and housed in barracks. For over a century all constables had to be able to recite the “Primary Objects” of policing: “The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained.”
There is no published deadline for submissions. But you should respond by the end of March if you live or work in London and believe that the primary objective of policing is the prevention of time not the meeting of targets as proxies for delivering political pledges, however worthy.
We need to give the Commissioner the remit to not only address the current problems of trust but a remit to begin the process of wresting control from those (the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London and their respective officials) who “know” what is best for us and direct the Met Police to enforce their top-down priorities, instead of listening locally to Londoners and responding to their bottom up concerns. I have yet to read the Casey review in detail but publicity to date indicates that the problems of racism, misogyny etc. are mainly, perhaps entirely, to do with centrally controlled specialist units and support groups. If that is correct then the task of addressing them could, and should, be much simpler than some of the other problems with poor response times and priorities which are not shared with the public.
If you fail to respond you can expect implementation to be watered down and side-lined, with community policing resources routinely “abstracted” in accordance with the priorities of the day – from anti-terrorism through demonstrations to sporting and state events – as opposed to the task of reducing the level of crime at all levels and in all dimensions, from domestic and/or local to organised and/or on-line.
The Start Point – Current satisfaction levels
The intention is to use the MOPAC Public Attitude and Victim Satisfaction Surveys as the yardstick for measuring performance with regard to public trust.
According to the most recent data, the proportion of those who trust the MPS has drifted down in recent years to just over 70%, with around half feeling the police do a good job in their local area, 45% worried about crime in their area and under 30% knowing how to contact the local police team.
Just over 60% feel the MPS treat everyone fairly, rising to nearly 70% among those who are white but not British and falling to 50% among those are black, 48% among the LGBTQ community and 41% among those of mixed race. When it comes to dealing with issues that matter to their community, 60% overall, marginally less among white British and Black, significantly higher among Asian (68%) and lower among mixed race (49%) and LGBTQ (50%). The survey report comments that the recent narrowing of the perception gap between Black Londoners and the average has been driven predominantly by declines among white Londoners.
When it comes to satisfaction with the service received the differences between the various communities are much smaller – only a couple of percentage points.
A much bigger difference is among those who report crime by phone (only 35% satisfied) or on-line (30%) satisfied.
While the survey data provides evidence of dissatisfaction arising from discrimination, that arising from inability to make contact is significantly greater.
London is an immigrant City. So too are its police.
Those born and bred in London, of whatever colour, are a minority. 37% of London’s residents were born outside the UK. Most of the rest were born outside London. The majority of MPS police officers were not born in London, albeit most were born in the UK. Most of those who police Inner London commute in from outside. Few live in the borough they police. Most serve in centrally organised and controlled response teams or specialist units.
I chair a safer neighbourhood partnership in a borough where few of the community police officers live within the borough. Most are with us for a short training rotation and are regularly “abstracted” for the parade, demonstration or operation of the day. We are, however, lucky enough to have continuity in our local leadership team and among our PCSOs.
We can see how community policing could and should work.
We can also see the problems of contacting the diversity of communities in our own area. These range from post code villages and sink estates to cultural, religious, social and professional ghettoes. And more Londoners are victims of cyber-crime and on-line abuse than of physical abuse. More-over the internet, on-line communication and new, high tech systems are, all too often, part of the problem, not the solution.
Addressing the missing dimension of Community Policing
According to the most recent MOPAC survey 4% of Londoners were victims of crime last year.
The recent Ofcom report Online scams and fraud research indicates that 87% of adults have come across fraud, nearly half had been drawn into a scam and around half had lost money.
Surveys to assess the scale and nature of abuse and violence against girls and women indicate a that on-line abuse is on a much larger scale than physical abuse.
But what is not measured is how much is “hybrid” with on-line and physical abuse linked, within the same community, estate or school.
Page 4 of the plan says “Crime is increasingly digitally enabled and online. Fraud is a critical threat, both to London and nationally. To respond the Met will invest in the right tools and skills and work together with partners such as the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Alongside bolstering our capabilities in the online and private domains, the Met will also place renewed emphasis on its core policing activities to deliver precise community crime-fighting. This combination of data-enabled policing, alongside new capabilities to respond to growing threats, will make the Met better at soling and preventing crime. “
There is no other mention of the cyber dimension to modern crime, whether local, national or international, prevention, reporting, investigation or victim support.
But much, perhaps most, on-line abuse comes from within the same school or post code.
Much, perhaps most, physical abuse is stoked by on-line grooming and taunting.
And a surprisingly high proportion of high value (as a proportion of the victim’s wealth) fraud involves local organised crime in collecting and delivering cards, phones and other credentials and/or money laundering.
Meanwhile London’s million or so businesses, most of them local SMEs, lose more to on-line fraud and cyberattack than to physical robbery and burglary, including shoplifting.
The strategy needs to join up post code and on-line community policing, not just centrally, e.g. via the new London Cyber Resilience Centre (which provides an umbrella for co-operation), but at borough level (the safer neighbourhood boards which need a relaunch and new terms of reference to give greater focus to information and intelligence sharing in the interests of the victims of repeat crime and abuse) and local level (the safer neighbourhood teams and partnerships.
That cannot be achieved without a transformation in attitudes towards harnessing industry expertise, both as specialist constables and as non-warranted volunteers – including to provide trusted and trustworthy, local human contact to those who have ceased to a text or phone call, let alone e-mail or anything over the internet.
The reference on page 9 of the plan to “increase and make the best use of volunteers, including special constables within neighbourhood teams” is critically important across all dimensions of policing – but the ability of the locally community police team to call on a panel of known local digital volunteers, whether warranted or not, to help them with a visit to a traumatised victim, whether individual or business, who is fearful of repeat attack, would help transform relations between police and community. Assembling and quality controlling such panels might be a task to be carried out under the umbrella of the London Cyber Resilience Centre, using the relevant professional bodies to check for technical competence at the same time as they are vetted for probity etc..
Delivering the Mission: needs joining up at all levels – not just the top
The plan begins with Forward which candidly states the scale and nature of the reforms needed with “the ongoing help and support of wider policing, politicians, partner organisations and most of all communities … to renew Peel’s vision of policing by consent … in a way that meets the public’s expectations.”
It then gives a welcome recognition that “London’s communities are ever-changing and the Met must be more representative of those it serves. The situation we face is changing too, with traditional challenges accompanied by new varied, and often digital forms of criminality”.
It lists some of the partners it needs to work with, including local government and community safety partnerships and some of the GLA/MOPAC plans with which it aligns. Unfortunately most of the latter involve centrally driven, silo’d top down programmes, with little joining up at borough level, let alone at the ward-based Safer Neighbourhood level.
I recently attended a statutory Borough Safety Board planning meetings, representing the Safer Neighbourhood Board, on whose behalf I created a pilot Community Safety Partnership. Unfortunately the Safer Neighbourhood Board then went into limbo, with its bank account frozen, pending a review by MOPAC.
Despite this, following a suggestion from the Borough Fire Commander, we are going ahead with joined up activities at the local level, using pump-priming from those running the NHS Health and Wellbeing operations whose early intervention operations are essential to tackling that 80% of community policing problems related to drugs, mental and those in care or excluded from mainstream education.
If the strengthened community police teams are to achieve the objectives being set for them, they need, for example. to be able to work together locally with those looking after the health and well-being of troubled teenagers before they are abused, victimised and recruited into a new “family” in a post-code gang affiliated to organised crime.
This also applies to on-line crime and fraud where many victims, whether domestic or business, have lost faith in the Internet and on-line reporting systems and want to speak to some-one they trust. There is no way that the police will evet have more than a fraction of the resources they need to meet that demand unless they use the London Cyber Resilience Centre (co-funded by Home Office and MOPAC) to create frameworks with relevant professional bodies to harness London’s 25,000 cyber-security professionals (and growing) pipeline of trainees) as police service volunteers, whether warranted or not.
Core Policing Activities, Strengthening Values and Achieving Diversity
In the summary of the plan (“How does this all fit together”) these are defined as:
More Trust: keeping the public safe, upholding public order and identifying and resolving neighbourhood priorities
Less Crime: responding to and resolving calls, targeting the most prolific and dangerous offenders, using strategic prevention initiatives to reduce crime
High Standards: investigating and solving crime, protecting the most vulnerable and repeat victims, operating with integrity
It is good that the text section on core policing activities begins with the need to work better with youth services and mental health to solve problems at source because the core services are currently overwhelmed., particularly when it comes to identifying and protecting the most vulnerable and repeat victims.
The public has lost confidence in the 101 service as a means of non-urgent reporting while it is increasingly collecting evidence of crime in progress via smart phones and doorbell cameras. There is a need to provide and publicise easy-to-use routines to provide such material in ways that enable it to be automatically collected, triaged and forwarded to those who can analyse and use it.
The process of analysis could and should make much better use of professionals and volunteers who are not physically fit for the office of constable. In other nations this is commonly a role for those with disabilities which would otherwise make then unfit for employment in law enforcement. This also provides a very practical means of demonstrating that the Met is serious about strengthening values, including respect for the abilities and talents of all – as well as responding to, and using, the evidence of wrongdoing they want to provide to some-one who will make use of it.
The Nine Turnaround Priorities
1 We will have the strongest ever neighbourhood policing.
This is indeed the by far the most important area for action when it comes to rebuilding trust because it is the only contact that most Londoners have with the police – unless they have dialled 999 or have the time and patience to hang on until 101 is answered.
The section contains some excellent objectives but, unless and until there is continuity with warranted officers for whom community policing is their career, not just a stepping stone, the key to success is not high level strategic partnership but supporting the teams with volunteers, whether warranted or not, who can help with collating intelligence and victim support and specialist tasks, such as mental health “escorts”, youth and schools liaison.
The volunteering routines and safer neighbourhood partnerships should be used to improve local operational contact with London’s disparate cultural. educational, ethnic, faith, business and professional communities, including via health, wellbeing and youth groups.
There is also a need to complement ward-based volunteers with specialist support groups of volunteers. There is a need for the MPS to follow other forces in using the flexibility provided in the 2011 Home Office Guidelines for those eligible to be Special Constables, to recruit security consultants (including cyber), medical practitioners (including mental health) and youth workers (including those with criminal justice dealings) provided there are processes in place to handle conflicts of interest. Those guidelines also allow for military reservists to also serve as special police, provided military priorities are recognised.
2 We will strengthen our work in public protection and safeguarding.
The Met faces major challenges of trust and credibility with many community groups reluctant to work with them other than in the context of exercises to “hold them to account” as opposed to working in partnership to help identify actual and potential predators before they can do more harm and better protect the vulnerable, including from repeat victimisation, by family members, fellow pupils or students, neighbours and those supposedly tasked to help them (including social workers and, of course, rogue police), not “just” by strangers.
Top down initiatives are likely to be effective only against that minority who are “reported” after maiming or killing their victims or driving them to suicide not just self harm. Current linkages between Policing, Local Authority (health and wellbeing teams and social services), NHS (hospital, specialist, primary care and other services) and Charities/Voluntary Groups are too high level to facilitate early intervention.
The priority should be to make it much easier to notify concerns to some-one who will listen and take action – whether the report comes via a beautician, hairdresser, neighbour, pharmacist, priest or preacher, social work or teacher.
That means promoting and extending services like Ask for ANI domestic abuse codeword: information for pharmacies with similar processes (and training) for other groups.
Better training for officers is welcome but handling the volume of cases if notification is improved means that effective response will be quicker and more effective if local and specialist police response, investigation and support teams (whether central, borough or local) include volunteers (whether warranted or not) with relevant experience, expertise and training (including current and/or former health and welfare professionals) working with relevant support groups who can provide personal continuity of human support.
While on-line services and valuable, this is an area where the Internet is part of the problem as much as it is part of the solution and improved human contact on the scale necessary will only be achieved via partnerships and volunteering.
This an areas where the vetting processes for volunteers, as well as for police officers, need particular attention. Consideration should be given to adopting granular approaches to vetting. The processes for vetting those working on domestic violence may not be suitable for those working on anti-terrorism or helping police public events, and vice versa. It is also important to remember that vetting is not a once off process. It needs to be regularly and routinely reviewed, as well as being triggered by evidence of changes in behaviour.
“Increasing positive criminal justice outcomes for public protection cases” will require joined up action with the NHS, Social Services, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Magistrates Association (including on recruitment and training).
3 We will provide a compassionate and effective service to victims
The objectives are very worthy but cannot be achieved without radical change to facilitate on-line, perhaps AI driven, filtering, routing and triage plus large scale programmes to use trained volunteers, supervised (by long-stay PCSOs rather than rotating officers) , preferably including many who are current and former health care professionals and youth workers with relevant experience and responsibilities.
This also applies to the victims of on-line crime who may have lost confidence in anything other than personal support from human beings. That will require large numbers of current and former digital and security technicians and professionals who are willing to volunteer to help locally, not just on-line. For many this is a welcome break from time in front a screen.
4 We will take a proactive approach to reducing Crime
The action most likely to bring about a step change in improved targeting is the agreement of standard processes for voluntary bulk “incident notification” (as opposed to “reporting”) by banks, insurance companies, retailers, telcos and communication service providers. The reasons this has not happened are to do with ambitions for mandatory “reporting”. The consequences include a failure to detect most of the money laundering by organised crime as well as the, often, linked fraud and paedophile rings that cause so much harm.
Legislative action, in the context of the Computer Misuse Act and Online safety Bill, to mandate sharing is likely to be less effective than guidance on the legitimate voluntary sharing of information in support of law enforcement, (i.e. permissible under Data Protection legislation).
5 We will raise standards and show care and respect
The current focus on processes for “holding the police to account”, and for expediting the removal of those who fail to live up to the standards necessary earn trust, is understandable given recent experience. It is, however, likely to be less effective in the long run than a focus on attracting (and properly vetting) a more representative cross section of Londoners (sex, social/cultural background, religion etc.) as recruits, whether as regular police officers and full-time staff or as volunteers (whether warranted or not).
6 We will set the frontline up to succeed
The focus should be on technologies and communications/information systems that help front-line officers do their job better and more safely (for themselves and their colleagues as well as the public) whether or not they are new.
Addressing the frustrations of Officers (and others) with the processes of the Met is welcome and long overdue. It needs, however, to be complemented by action among some of the Met Police partners, including the GLA and London Boroughs, with their processes for handling law enforcement issues which fall outside the remit of the police or require close co-operation – from trading standards to supporting vulnerable tenants in social housing.
Action to improve the processes of the Criminal Justice System, including the Crown Prosecution Service, may be outside the remit of this consultation but those responding to this consultation should ponder how best to ensure that this is included in the policies of those bidding for their votes at the next General Election.
There is also a need to look at processes to bypass the criminal justice system entirely and move those with the potential for rehabilitation direct onto effective programmes without passing through processes likely to reinforce rather than deter criminality.
7 We will invest in our people
The way in which most technical and operational skills are developed and delivered has been transformed over the past decade – with blended learning modules and work experience supervised by the rank above replacing most off-the-job courses.
Examples can be seen in the military training programmes for both regulars and reservists. From those for Royal Signals, (to handle electronic warfare in all dimension from cyber and sigint, through fake news to drone battles) to the training programmes being run for the Ukrainian Army (based on those to get UK reservists up to speed before deployment alongside the regulars).
The critical factors are:
- training needs analysis (and revising it as some needs change while others do not)
- training the trainers (including those supervising the work experience)
8 We will be data driven and evidence based
The objectives are very ambitious, and rightly so, but success will be critically dependent on the quality of the data collected and collated. This cannot be taken for granted. Those providing the inputs it must have a vested interest in their accuracy. That means the process must be seen to help them do their job better, not get in the way or be there mainly to control their behaviour from afar.
It must also be remember that if the Met is serious about a return to Peelite policing principle then “the basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime” and “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”
This has profound implications with regard to the “data” needed and the “evidence” of performance that is relevant.
9 We will innovate, make efficient use of resources and reinvest
The core question is – which users to be put at the heart of the efficiency programme.
The NHS has unresolved tensions between systems intended to provide clinicians with accurate information at the point of care and systems intended to help managers meet targets.
The Met Police will have similar tensions.
I may be that incremental change to remove bottlenecks with regard to information flows, within an overall architecture, or set of architectures, for information sharing and inter-operability – laterally as well as vertically, is the best way forward
What will the Public See that is different?
This section is left blank, save for the three target areas
Delivering a better Service for Victims
Working Close with Communities
Investing in Our People
The consultation launched by the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner is the first attempt to consult the communities of London on the priorities for what should be “their” police force – not just an enforcement arm of the Home Office.
If those communities, cultural, professional, racial, religious and social, as well as post code and on-line, fail to respond – then their views will not be taken into account.
If YOU do not respond then your views will not be taken into account.
There is a missing section: on how policing priorities are set.
Should protecting Parliament and Whitehall against demonstrations in Central London come before reducing violence against girls and women?
But this is more for the politicians to whom the police are accountable than for the police themselve.
P.S. I do not feel competent to comment on the issues faced by those within the police service, but do think it important to identify whether the “people problems” identified in the Casey review are disproportionately found in specialist units and whether new approaches to vetting and monitoring, using all sources available, would enable these to be addressed