London’s traditional borough-based policing model could be under threat after Scotland Yard announced it is to trial a new multi-borough command model.
Currently each of the 32 boroughs has a dedicated commander who is responsible managing the deployment of officers in a way which reduces crime and addresses concerns raised by local communities.
However some say this model is expensive to maintain as it duplicates management functions across the capital and limits the Met’s flexibility to tackle new or growing forms of crime.
The force is now set to trial a move towards ‘Basic Command Units’ where a cluster of boroughs will be managed centrally by a chief superintendent who is supported by a team of superintendents, each specialising in a different policing function.
Under the trial, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering will form one BCU, with Camden and Islington merged into a second.
Officers buildings, technology, vehicles and other resources will all be shared across the boroughs within the BCU, rather than being dedicated to a single community as at present.
Once the trial is complete, Scotland Yard and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime will decide whether to roll out the model across all of London.
Attempts to scrap the dedicated borough commander role have been made before, most recently in Boris Johnson’s crime plan. Opposition, fuelled by concerns that the move would make policing less responsive to local concerns, forced the former mayor to drop the plans.
However current deputy mayor for policing Sophie Linden today said the new model would cut overheads and allow more money to be spent on frontline policing.
On the issue of local community relations, she said: “Restoring real neighbourhood policing is our top priority.
“We want people to know their local officer, to build the trust of communities and for people to have the confidence to report crime to the police.”
However Steve O’Connell, a Conservative London Assembly Member who chairs its Police and Crime Committee, said: “Whilst the Police Service should always be looking at ways to improve, and we understand the need to pilot, there are concerns that lumping Boroughs together, which in some cases are dissimilar, will be counterproductive.”
There is some surprise within City Hall that the trial wasn’t confirmed on Thursday when Mrs Linden and outgoing Met Commissioner Sir Benard Hogan-Howe appeared before the Police and Crime Committee.