With knife violence again dominating the London news headlines, some political opponents have sought to make hay at Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expense.
Take for example Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince who took to Twitter to contrast Sadiq’s September 2015 pledge to curb the use of the powers with his article in yesterday’s Evening Standard promising an increase in intelligence-led use of them:
1st September 2015: Sadiq Khan promises to do everything possible to cut stop and search.
10th January 2018: “Stop and Search Blitz”
— Keith Prince (@KeithPrinceAM) January 10, 2018
— Keith Prince (@KeithPrinceAM) 10 January 2018
Such attacks are unfair.
As the Standard’s September 2015 report of Sadiq’s comments make clear, the Met’s use of stop powers was in rapid decline long before he took office nine months later.
As far back as 2011, then Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe expressed concern at the level of their use and promised that the force would adopt a more intelligence-led approach.
This pledge was Hogan-Howe’s response to the deeply-held belief by some of London’s communities that officers were targeting them because of their race or skin colour.
The new approach, which was backed by Boris Johnson and his policing deputy Kit Malthouse, delivered a rapid fall in the number of stops. By October 2013, the number of stops in some boroughs had fallen by as much as 43%.
In April of the following year Home Secretary – now PM – Theresa May praised the Met’s reforms, noting that while the number of stops by its officers had fallen by a third overall, the proportion of arrests resulting from them had doubled.
Her praise for the Met’s record came as she threatened to remove individual officers’ ability to use the powers following a HMIC review which concluded that up to a quarter of a million stops in England and Wales “could have been illegal”.
She told MPs that when “people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public.”
A year later, in the article cited by Mr Prince, Sadiq said:
“It undermines public confidence in our police if Londoners are being stopped and searched for no good reason.”
His statement is entirely consistent with Mrs May’s.
And it’s worth noting that the reforms initiated by Hogan-Howe and applauded by the now PM were part of a mix of measures which has seen public confidence in the Met rise in recent years.
Sadiq and current Commissioner Cressida Dick are right to look at ramping up the use of stop powers in response to the recent spate of knife attacks. The force-wide adaption of bodyworn cameras should hopefully help reassure all Londoners that the powers are being used correctly.
But his political opponents are wrong to point to very mainstream comments made more than 2 years ago and suggest that they’re somehow linked to tragedies taking place today.