Almost half of the Met’s 30,462 police officers live outside the capital according to official figures.
The issue of officers’ home location is becoming increasingly important as the force seeks to reduce the number of innocent Londoners who are the subject of Stop and Search.
Senior Met officers and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) have both suggested that recruiting more officers from within London’s communities is the key to reducing the number of Stops carried out.
The Met has suggested that recruiting new officers from within its ranks of PCSOs, who tend to live in London and better reflect its ethnic make-up, would increase the force’s diversity and close the gap between it and Londoners.
Last month the London Assembly’s Stop and Search Working Group heard concerns that unfamiliarity with London’s diversity meant some officers were “frightened” of the communities they serve.
Molly Mulready-Jones from the Stop and Search Legal Project told Assembly Members: “If we had police who were born and bred in the communities…it would lead to people dealing with people that they understand.
“I think at the moment, when a lot of London police seem to come from Essex and places outside London that are quite different, they, I think, sometimes feel quite frightened of the people that they are policing and they also do not seem to really understand where the people are coming from.”
Official figures provided by Mayor Boris Johnson to Green Party London Assembly Jenny Jones reveal that just 15,319 of the Met’s 30,462 officers live in the capital.
Of these, only 1,126 live in the boroughs they serve.
Baroness Jones said the Mayor’s figures “raise some concerns about the low number of police officers living within the community they serve.”
She added: “Police officers based in or near the communities they serve are able to build relationships with local people and be aware of local issues. The Met should reflect London and instead half its officers live outside the city.”
Despite MOPAC’s stated desire to recruit more officers from within London, Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh recently agreed to pay up to £20m per year to help officers living outside the capital to commute to work.
The MOPAC will spend that sum paying train operators to provide free travel to Met officers, a benefit it says allows officers “to take advantage of cheaper accommodation” outside London.
Commenting on the travel concession, Baroness Jones said: “Police officers can’t afford to live in London these days because of the dysfunctional, overpriced, housing market. Instead of seeking a long-term solution the Mayor is using £20m as a sticking plaster for the problem.
“If the Mayor really wants to increase the number of police officers who are Londoners then he should be investing this money into social and affordable accommodation for key workers, such as police officers.”