Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Where are the plods?

The strength of the Met Police is currently over 32,000. There are 32 boroughs in London - the City being the 33rd, but having its own police force. So, that's 1,000 plods for each borough, is it? Is it horsefeathers. If it were, each borough would have, say;

1 x Superintendant
2 x Chief Inspectors
13 x Inspectors
100 x Sergeants
800 x Constables

Allowing for 84 officers of various ranks belonging to specialist squads. Split into three shifts, this would give (allowing for leave and a 5% sickness rate) 3 inspectors, 25 sergeants and 220 plods patrolling the streets of my borough at any hour of the night or day. When the reality is something like 24 plods available on the streets of Lewisham borough at any one time - a tenth of what our rates pay for - one has to ask why.

As Simon Jenkins says in tonight's 'Standard';
The lack of political oversight of London's police has continued for almost two centuries, to the point where the force is in part a private army, working to its own rules of engagement.

Meanwhile the streets of London have been delegated to three uninspiring groups: community support officers paid for by borough rates, private security guards paid for by residents and traffic wardens paid for by fines.

London's streets are mostly policed off the police budget. Londoners might reasonably ask where the Met's exorbitant spending of £3.6 billion actually goes.
Well, I can suggest where all our plods are. I'll bet the real borough structure is something like this;

1 x Superintendant
13 x Chief Inspectors - 6 on specialist squads, 3 on long-term sick, 1 on secondment to Kosovo
32 Inspectors - 18 on specialist squads, 10 only work M-F 9 to 5 on admin and performance indicators, 2 on long term sick
423 Sergeants - 260 on specialist squads, 100 only work office hours and never leave the office, 50 on long-term sick, 10 suspended, 2 acting-up to cover for sick inspectors
120 Constables - 30 on long-term sick etc.

So, for my borough's share of a £3.6bn budget, that's £112m a year in our local tax payments, we've got just 24 plods on duty.

Anyone who imagines that this represents value is insane.

As Jenkins writes;

The public's sense of security begins in the home and in the street outside the home. If those places are not safe, nothing else matters.

This security should rely, as in cities such as Tokyo, on known street officers and police “shops”, operating under a borough commander and a network of local committees.

In every meaningful sense it is these bodies that should “run” the police, setting priorities, responding to crises, paying extra for more protection, comforting victims and, above all, knowing each other.

With the collapse of properly local government, the police officer, alongside the head teacher or the vicar, emerges as one the few leaders of the local community.

He or she embodies a lost civic authority. At least they should work in tandem with elected local figures.

We know what happens when the London police are left to their own devices, as Stephenson and Orde would like. They take the money and run. They need watching all the time.

There is no such thing as too much politics. Oversight is democracy at work. More please.


electro-kevin said...

I'll make no bones about it. The average copper dreads wearing the tall hat and getting out there in the shit. Street duty was to be avoided at all costs - volunteering for departmental work soon after probation. Those that were on divisional duty knew where the friendly security guards were, with kettles and electric fires.

I guess many Mets are given a job list when they muster for duty. I expect this list of enquiries and visits can be dragged out all shift.

Many coppers go for early retirement (especially WPCs) - typically with a 'bad back'. Because a bad back is difficult for a medical examiner to disprove.

Blue Eyes said...

R, how many detectives do you have under your scheme? How many in the terrorism section? The sexual offences unit? The fraud squad?

electro-kevin said...

Prevention is better than detection.

A visible presence can't be beaten.

talwin said...

Electro Kevin @ 21.07.

It was ever thus (and not only in the Met.)

Edward Spalton said...

Sir Robert Peel wisely arranged that policemen should not be gentlemen. By insisting on rising through the ranks as the method of promotion, he scotched the possibility of a professional police "officer corps" emerging which, like ACPO, would become a danger to liberty.
Chief Constables were usually former military officers who understood discipline and were drawn from the upper classes of society, so having a stake in it. They were generally in post for 5 years or so and were not expecting promotion to higher things - so had little incentive to suck up to the Home Office.

I date the beginning of the politicisation and decline of public respect for the police force to the day when policemen were promoted to Chief Constables.

It sounds horrendously snobby to say this - but I think there is some truth in it.

Raedwald said...

If I had a neighbourhood beat plod that I knew, I and many others would be perfectly happy to invite him / her in for a mug of tea, to use the lavatory etc - and I suspect this would also be a good way of them gathering local intelligence.

If I go back to Vail, a town with a population of 5,000 - a fiftieth the size of an average London borough - which has its own police force of 31, of whom I guess 6 would be on duty at any one time, this would equate to 300 on duty in a London borough. Whilst this is probably overkill, it's not a million miles from what we're paying for - but not getting.

If I managed my development contracts in the way the Commissioner manages the Met, I'd be out of business within months. I'd be hard put to explain to clients why they're paying for 40 plasterers but only 5 are working on site - the rest being sick, doing training courses, carrying out 'plaster safety' visits to schools, or sitting in the portacabin filling in plaster returns all day for the others.

If this is what Orde means by leaving the management of the police to 'professionals' then God help us.

JuliaM said...

Well, no doubt before long they'll be even less visible. They'll all be inside searching Facebook for images of guns...

Blue Eyes said...

So R, how many specialist units does your model have?

Hogday said...

I once had an article published in the magazine of the Police Federation (heady stuff eh?). It was 19 years ago and I loudly criticised the trendy move away from small, locally accountable forces, toward the huge and impersonal `superforce` amalgams that were either taking place or being planned. I think my final comment was that it would be far easier to challenge, or even sue, a local chief of police rather than a faceless Home Office mandarin halfway across the country from where your problem was actually located. An ACC told me he enjoyed my piece, but said, `Of course you're going in totally the opposite direction of where current thinking will take us`. How right he was.

A small town in Nova Scotia used to have its own township police. They knew everyone and pretty much all the problems. It was finally paid off and they chose to accept the National RCMP policing model as an `efficiency saving`. Now they get a patrol car visit once a day, that ticks a box on the town hall notice board to prove they looked in. This is our future.

Hogday said...

PS: On reflection, a visit once a day would be a massive increase in the police presence in many UK villages and small towns.

Brian E. said...

I think that you have underestimated the number of people required to cover any single post when working 24/7 without overtime.As an engineer, I worked 24/7 shifts for years; we did a 40 hour week but were entitled to an hour's lunch break, and this worked a net 35 hours. With 168 hours in a week, it took 5 shifts (175 hours) to provide full cover with a short hand over period. There was also the equivalent of another shift of unattached staff who filled absences due to sickness, leave and training, so effectively 6 people were needed to ensure 24/7 cover of one post, if there was not to be compulsory overtime (and hasn't that been banned by the EU?) You can cover a day with three shifts (we did), but it's not the same three the following day!

JuliaM said...

"Now they get a patrol car visit once a day, that ticks a box on the town hall notice board to prove they looked in. "

That sounds familiar...

Oh, yes! Our office toilet attendant does the same thing to prove she's cleaned it.

Raedwald said...

BE - it's a sketch, not a model, but the adding up left 8.4% of plods in specialist squads - it doesn't sound too bad, does it? I'd guess 10% - 12% would be a better 'real' figure.

Brian E - yes, quite right. If they worked a five on, two off shift pattern there would be fewer of them on at any time - all the more reason, surely, to get the rest of them out from behind their desks and onto the streets?

Hogday said...

"....Oh, yes! Our office toilet attendant does the same thing to prove she's cleaned it".

But the occasional visit never seems to eradicate the floaters - QED?