Her Majesty The Queen has granted Royal Approval to extend the Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner’s appointment until September 2017 following recommendations tabled by the Home Secretary Theresa May and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.
Former chief constable of Merseyside Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM has led the UK’s biggest police force since 2011. The new arrangement ensures continuity of leadership for policing in London after the mayoral elections take place in May.
The recommendation for a 12-month extension to Sir Bernard’s tenure at Scotland Yard was made by the Home Secretary Theresa May following advice from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. It recognises the “vital work” Sir Bernard has conducted in fighting crime and reforming the Metropolitan Police Service.
“Sir Bernard has been at the very forefront of the vital and important challenge of policing London at a time of heightened security,” asserted the Home Secretary. “His determination and commitment to cutting crime has helped keep London safe.”
May continued: “Extending Sir Bernard’s appointment for one year means that the new Mayor of London will be able to take an informed view about any representations they may wish to make on the longer-term leadership of the force. I look forward to continued working with Sir Bernard such that we can further reform the Metropolitan Police Service, cut crime and keep London safe.”
The extension of the Commissioner’s appointment runs until 25 September 2017. Legislation allows for an initial extension of up to a maximum of three years and unlimited one year extensions thereafter.
Any decision is based on a recommendation from the Home Secretary and informed by a recommendation from the Mayor of London as occupant of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).
“Most police forces judged to be fair and ethical” reports HMIC
The majority of police forces in England and Wales are found to be treating people fairly and ethically. That’s according to a report just published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
However, HMIC finds a mixed picture overall when the use of Stop and Search and the way in which black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) officers and staff are treated in disciplinary matters are taken into account.
HMIC’s Legitimacy inspection examined all 43 forces in England and Wales on whether they operate fairly, ethically and within the law, how they engage with their communities and their use of Stop and Search and tasers. In total, 37 police forces were graded as ‘Good’, with one force – namely Kent Police – achieving an ‘Outstanding’ grade.
Additionally, there were five police forces graded as ‘Requires improvement’. None were found to be ‘Inadequate’.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Stephen Otter, who led the inspection, said: “The majority of police forces demonstrate fair and ethical behaviour. Members of the public expect no less. However, all the good work that we’ve seen forces doing to engage with their local communities risks being undermined if they continue to fail when it comes to making Stop and Search right. This is the third time we’ve focused on Stop and Search in the last three years. Although there’s some improvement, it’s not happening fast enough. This is inexcusable given that it’s one of the principal indicators of police legitimacy.”
Otter continued: “In this inspection, we found that police force use of Stop and Search is declining. Police officers need to be given the confidence to use this policing tactic correctly. Additionally, too many forces are still not recording the reasonable grounds for stopping an individual. In one force, almost two thirds of the records we reviewed didn’t record this detail.”
In conclusion, Otter stated: “I’m frustrated by the apparent lack of commitment by chief constables to ensuring that Stop and Search is used both properly and legitimately, and I’m now looking for police leaders to take action that will address this issue within the next three months.”
Compliance with Home Office and College of Policing scheme
HMIC is disappointed to find that far too many forces are not complying with the Home Office and College of Police’s Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, despite all chief constables having signed up to do so. Thirteen of the 43 police forces are not complying with three or more of the five requirements of the scheme. As a result, HMIC will revisit these forces within six months to determine what progress has been made.
In its first inspection of the use of tasers, HMIC found that forces had robust oversight systems in place, officers were well-trained and that the use of tasers was both “fair and appropriate”.
The other area of concern was a suggestion of possible bias in the way that BAME officers and staff are treated in disciplinary matters. The data shows differences in the way that BAME officers and staff appeared to be treated throughout such processes. Staff representative groups told HMIC that the perception of bias and discrimination exists. Disappointingly, the data from forces was not consistent and complete enough to draw firm conclusions.
HMIC now recommends that chief constables conduct a review to assess whether or not bias exists and, if so, take action to address this matter. Additionally, the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) should establish national standards to detect bias such that forces can take the appropriate course of action.
The Legitimacy inspection considered many issues, among them the degree to which forces reflect the diverse make-up of the communities they serve, the efforts made by police forces to engage with those communities and, as stated, the way in which Stop and Search procedures and tasers are used.
Police legitimacy will continue to be inspected as part of HMIC’s annual all-force inspection programme.
Response from the NPCC
In response to HMIC’s report, Sara Thornton – chairman of the NPCC – said: “The overall picture in the Police Legitimacy 2015 report is positive. Legitimacy sits at the very heart of British policing. Only by earning the trust and respect of all communities, including our own internal community, can we do our job effectively.”
Thornton went on to state: “It’s important for police forces to understand why some black, Asian and minority ethnic staff appear to be treated differently. Gathering better data will enable leaders to identify any bias in the system, whether conscious or unconscious, and then take the necessary action to put the situation right.”
On the matter of Stop and Search, Thornton commented: “Stop and Search is a valuable tool in our fight against crime. When used correctly, it can help officers find dangerous objects and eliminate innocent people from their enquiries. Being searched doesn’t mean you’re under arrest or have done anything wrong.”
Thornton concluded: “The number of Stop and Search records which don’t include reasonable grounds for suspicion has dropped from 27% in 2013 to 15% in 2015. That’s evidence of progress. However, I’m disappointed that some forces are not complying fully with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. We will make sure this matter is addressed at the next meeting of Chief Constables’ Council. Like other police powers, Stop and Search must always be used in a professional and legitimate manner.”