“Something is rotten in the state of London’s accountability” according to David Lammy in a new article for the Guardian’s excellent Comment is Free.
It’s true, there is a clear accountability deficit in the way policing is managed in the capital but what Lammy doesn’t mention is that it’s a deficit caused by his own Government’s policies.
The Mayor of London has no operational control over the policing of the capital and even with his relatively new right to sit as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Boris has no right to tell the Met how they carry out their duties.
As Sir Paul Stephenson recently made clear, the person who eventually decides how and where officers are deployed is the Commissioner. The actual decision might be taken by local officers but all operational decisions are ultimately taken in the Commissioner’s name and under his authority.
As the world saw during the row over the departure of Ian Blair and the appointment of his successor, the Mayor and MPA don’t even have the right to appoint the Commissioner.
That’s one heck of an accountability gap, but it was the Government Lammy represents which decided the Home Secretary should make the final appointment. At the time of Sir Paul’s appointment that was the MP for Redditch, an individual who the London electorate has no control over. Talk about something being “rotten in the state of London’s accountability”.
If Labour don’t believe the Met Commissioner should be appointed by London’s most senior politician why does Lammy expect to be consulted over the deployment of officers?
As it happens I see no issue with pro-active routine patrols by armed officers in known trouble spots provided such deployments are intelligence led.
Warm words, outreach workers and ad campaigns are only ever going to achieve so much and are sadly never going to deter a core of those who routinely carry guns and endanger the public.
The police are in a no-win situation. Fear of gun and knife crime prompts the public to question what the force is doing to make the streets safe for the majority, but when it decides on a course of action it’s hamstrung by political outrage.
Through Government incompetence and lack of foresight we’ve arrived at a situation where individual MPs and Assembly Members demand a right to be consulted on operational issues while the directly elected Mayor and legally constituted police authority hav to maintain a ‘hand-off’ strategic stance.
The first step in mending “the state of London’s accountability” has to be placing the policing of London’s streets under the control of the MPA with the body given sole responsibility for hiring, firing and holding to account the Commissioner.
Once that’s done the division of power and responsibility between the Mayor and London Assembly are in need of urgent review…