Lewisham council taxpayers pay for 1,000 full time Met police officers; deduct 10% for diplomatic protection and armed response detached duty, allow a further 15% absence from leave or sickness at any time, and divide the balance into three shifts and we should still have over 250 plods on duty at any time. Readers were incredulous when I reported that most of the time there are just 12 officers available to respond to incidents in the borough.
And now the Inspector of Constabulary has found that this mirrors the national picture - just 6% to 11% of our police are available at any time.
No blame should be focused on the humble copper. It's not his fault. It is instead a massive failure of management; all those shiny new MBAs amassed by the Superintendents upwards haven't done them a scrap of good. They're useless managers. Utterly crap. They've learned how to do Gantt charts but forgotten how to schedule shifts.
There is a very small amount of very important police work that needs to be carried our by specialist officers on a regional or national basis; terrorism, organised crime and the like. And experienced detectives in murder squads are vital. But the reality is that 98% of police work is local - call-outs to disturbances, vehicle crime, criminal damage, thefts and shoplifting, burglary, assaults and road traffic offences.
It's this whole latter class of bread and butter police work I'd suggest should be devolved to borough level here in London, with the cost of the borough force charged directly to local ratepayers, and under the strategic control of a borough Watch Committee made up of elected members and magistrates (but with tactical control remaining with the borough commander).
The truly specialist units would be run by the GLA / Mayor and paid for either by a precept to the boroughs for London regional activity or by the Home Office for national activity.
And for the lads on the Trafficked Domestic Abuse units and the like back at the station, it's time to pull those duty belts back on, get the Doc Martins and the hi-viz out of the cupboard and learn what rain feels like again.