If you want to see the benefits of having a directly elected local figure in charge of policing, then you just need to look to London. Boris Johnson has put more police on the streets, increased police visibility and introduced innovative policies such as the new sobriety scheme.
Steady on. Even the mayor's then policing deputy Kit Malthouse described the sobriety scheme as just a "mini pilot" when it was announced in February, and it won't yield results until after the summer. As for "more police on the streets," and "increased police visibility," the London Assembly's Greens aren't so sure.
Police and crime committee member Jenny Jones recently disclosed Met figures showing that as of May - the month, not Theresa - no less than 6,579 fully fit and functioning warranted officers out of the 29,682 available were in "operational support" or "organisational support" roles as opposed to being in outright "operational" roles. In other words, instead of working on the fabled "frontline" against crime these cops were employed in office jobs that could have be done by civilians.
Why this surprising state of affairs? "The Met has reduced the number of support staff in order to keep officer numbers high," according to Jones, "and that is why we now have thousands of expensive police officers doing work that could be done by cheaper support staff." Here she is, bringing out the best in Mayor Johnson...
Met stats show that there had been 6,295 warranted officers in support roles two years earlier, say the Greens - still a lot, it seems to me, but nearly 300 fewer than now. Meanwhile, between March 2010 and March 2012 the number of civilian staff fell from 14,330 to 13,581. In May this this year the figure was down to 13,163 which is 11% fewer than the Met had actually budgeted for.
The Mayor, of course, has championed single officer patrols, which is one way of increasing visibility. Yet the deployment figures hardly undermine the Green case that the Met has been so keen to save money by sacking non-warranted staff in the name of keeping the sacred "police numbers" headline figure high - high enough, indeed, for the Mayor to be able to claim he kept a key election pledge - that a growing proportion of those "police numbers" are having to perform tasks previously done by the very civilian staff laid off. Last month, for example, 215 warranted officers were answering 999 calls. The Greens do not regard this as good value for money.
It all provides illuminating context for the home secretary's lauding of her fellow Conservative in City Hall. It does the same in relation to the Mayor's choice to head his office for policing and crime, his long-time ally Stephen Greenhalgh who, of course, previously led the cost-cutting test bed Tory borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. At his recent confirmation hearing Greenhalgh told the Assembly:
We needed to ensure 24-hour day, seven-day week policing. It has made a difference in Shepherd's Bush. It has made a difference in Fulham.
Can any such a difference be made in London as a whole? Only, perhaps, if Deputy Greenhalgh ensures that the Met employs enough civilian staff. Is he content that it is doing so just now?
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