The Evening Standard is claiming that Boris is under pressure over police numbers. Firstly they should sack their picture editor for illustrating the story with a copper who is clearly not a Met officer (wrong helmet) and secondly they should look at the very simple and incontrovertible facts which show why neither Boris, nor Kit Malthouse or I or anyone else feels under any pressure on this issue.
Firstly the only figure that counts is the number of actual officers that are actually employed by the Met, you cannot send a “budgeted” officer out on patrol unless they have actually been recruited. The actual number of officers rose from just over 31,000 when Boris came in to about 33,000 in 2009 dropped to about 32,000 in 2010/11 and will be back up to 32,500 by 2012. There will be more officers next year than last year and more officers at the end of Boris’s term than at the start, no confusion and no hidden agenda.
Having got all that out of the way I would now like to say that these top line police number figures are almost completely meaningless.
The number of police officers only matters if they are all being properly used. The fluctuations in numbers is eclipsed by the number of officers on long tern sick or restrictive duties, in Summer 2010 that figure was 2,483. If we can get a grip of that figure we get extra policing that we are already paying for. If we could cut down on the number of officers writing and enforcing meaningless guidelines they too could be redeployed to the streets, buses and schools where Londoners want them to be.
The policy to move to single patrolling means that we now have 50% more visible police patrols than in 2008, more than 120,000 extra patrols. There has also been a massive expansion in the number of Special Constables since 2008, from under 1,000 to almost 5,000 this year, providing 10,000 extra police shifts per month.
The Met are also pushing to better utilise their numbers. For example rather than having a officer sitting around in court all day waiting to give evidence, and sometimes never called, the Met and Croydon Magistrates Court are trialling police officers giving evidence by video link. If successful this could free up a huge amount of police time.
The Labour and Lib Dem members can pretend that they don’t understand the figures and feign stupidity (well I assume that they’re feigning it!) but the falls in crime in London speak for themselves and the actual number of police officers, the one number that you cannot spin, caress or distort, is heading up.