Authority members could have turned up, nodded through the few reports before them and swanned off for a few glasses of civic wine and dry sarnies.
Instead they went out the same way they’ve spent the past 11 years – providing a valuable service to Londoners by holding the police to account.
The meeting saw Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe challenged on the progress of his promise to implement a more targeted approach to Stop & Search.
According to Hogan-Howe, more than 90% of Stops are “inefficient” which seems to be the polite way of saying the person stopped isn’t carrying a knife (or any other illegal item) and has been delayed from going about their business.
The way forward seems to be targeted Stops aimed, as far as the law allows, at those previously caught in possession of a weapon. Changing the use of Stop & Search will take time, not least because the Commissioner wants officers to receive proper training on the new approach.
Hogan-Howe also accepted the suggestion from MPA member Cindy Butts that the Met should solicit feedback from those stopped about their experience. The Commissioner is apparently pondering developing an app via which those stopped can text or relay their feedback.
This was only one of the points on which Hogan-Howe was questioned, but it’s a good example of how public scrutiny of the Met can help ensure Londoners understand the direction of thought within the service.
As the meeting drew to an end, Hogan-Howe had the following to say about public scrutiny:
“…the strength the Authority brings is that it challenges, I think anybody in any organisation needs challenging, particularly in public service when you have no competition.
“The public of London have to come to the Met to get their policing. So you need someone to challenge you constantly, to say ‘you could do this differently, you could do it better.’
“It’s not always easy to extend that challenge, it’s not always easy to accept it but it’s vital.”
He went on to say:
“Public meetings actually bring openness, they bring the press, they bring questions, they bring the answers. Others will look at that dialogue and may learn something from it. So I think it’s absolutely vital.”
The new law allows for public meetings of a MOPC advisory board “if the Mayor so chooses” but doesn’t mandate it.
For the first time in 11 years, public scrutiny of the Met will happen only if a kindly Mayor allows it to. That seems a long way from the enhanced accountability which backers of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act promised.
At the Guardian, Dave Hill voices the concern that:
“there is clearly the potential for London to become a sort of transparency anomaly, compared with what is coming to the rest of the country.”
It’s an issue which could be easily addressed if the London Assembly were granted the extra powers it seeks.
But despite the concerns, there are some positives for London.
The decision to hand police scrutiny to the Mayor rather than create a competing figure allows a joined-up approach to reducing crime.
Unlike Police and Crime Commissioners outside London, the Mayor has powers over the supply of housing, transport, workplace skills and regeneration.
He will be able to feed intelligence and input from the Met into his wider policies, ensuring crime prevention and reduction is built into the heart of the local services and infrastructure improvements he delivers.
And just as the Mayor will be able to deliver a holistic vision for the capital, so Londoners in turn will be able to hold a single figure to account, spared the buck passing which I suspect awaits our cousins outside the capital.
Update: Via email Kit Malthouse tells me: “The main scrutiny of both [MOPC] and the commissioner will take place in public in front of the assembly once or possibly twice a month.
“I don’t currently propose to hold my performance meetings in public, but there will be a public report issued every month, explaining what my concerns have been and what we talked about.”