Met Police chief: Why front-line officers have been cut in Wandsworth

Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service

Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service

Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe was at Lambeth College last night to discuss policing with 100 local people.

Hogan-Howe answered questions for over an hour. He was honest but firm.

I was surprised by his description of why front-line officers have been cut in Wandsworth:

“The Met has got about 32,300 [officers budgeted for this year], we were expecting to go down far below that this year… What you’ve seen happen, it’s no fault of the borough commanders, is that overall the numbers have started to drop because we’ve started to let go, to not replace, people because we didn’t think we would have the money that has just been given to us.

“So we got down to less than 32,000 in fact down to 31,300. A lot of that has accumulated in the boroughs – so that’s why this year you’ve seen less police officers and less PCSOs, for the same reason we have not been able to back-fill vacancies because we weren’t sure of the money. We’ve jut had a big recruitment drive, so I think that will help us this year.”

The majority of Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Wandsworth are below full strength (see figures below and the front page of this week’s Wandsworth Guardian). Hogan-Howe was told these teams are over-stretched, he replied:

“Over the past year the police numbers dropped and the Police Community Support Officers numbers have dropped because we didn’t know we had the money and it’s been aggravated by the fact that some of the Community Support Officers have been recruited as police officers. So we’re getting a double whammy – the numbers are dropping and the PCSOs we have left are being recruited for the police… We’ll remedy it in about six months.”

There were also lots of questions about race relations: The Commissioner promised “fewer, more intelligent” stops and searches; speedy investigations into recent racism allegations; and, interestingly, video cameras in the back of all Met police vans (“how can police officers be against the gathering of evidence?” he said).

Wandsworth SNT Representation by Ward, January 2012

Safer Neighbourhood Team No of PCs (or higher ranking*) No of PCSOs Other Total
Balham

3

4

(1 Schools Officer)

8

Bedford

3

2

5

Earlsfield

2

3

5

East Putney

3

2

5

Fairfield

2

3

5

Furzedown

3

1

4

Graveney

3

3

6

Latchmere

3

3

6

Nightingale

3

1

4

Northcote

4

2

6

Queenstown

2

3

5

Roehampton

3

3

6

Shaftesbury

2

2

4

Southfields

3

4

7

St Mary’s Park

2

3

5

Thamesfield

3

3

6

Tooting

2

0

2

Tooting Town Centre

3

8

11

Wandsworth Common

4

2

6

West Hill

3

1

4

West Putney

4

1

5

Total**

60

54

*Includes Sergeants, for example.

** This does not account for crossover where one officer represents multiple areas, so real figures may be lower.

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