Over the weekend, I had a catch-up with a former colleague of mine who is still serving on the front line of the Met Police.
Over a coffee, he told me about the impact that the recent borough mergers is having on officers who serve on London’s response team.
It made for a very sombre conversation…
The Met used to be made up of 32 different boroughs. Each borough had its own four primary response teams.
Going back to pre-2006, each borough had its own ‘control room’ where 999 and non-emergency calls were routed to.
This ‘local’ way of operating meant that rarely would there be any outstanding ‘S’ or ‘R’ grade calls when a new shift took over. ‘S’ and ‘R’ grade calls are non-emergency calls.
As a response team officer, I would often walk into the control room having finished dealing with a prisoner and ask if there were any outstanding ‘S’ or ‘R’ grade calls which I could assist with.
I did this because that is what the other members of my team taught me to do as a probationer. And it worked.
But then the local borough control rooms were disbanded (cost cutting) and instead ‘Metcall’ hubs were built which each had responsibility for huge patches of London.
The ‘personal’ touch vanished. The call handlers who we had built up a fantastic rapport with, disappeared into a huge building, never to be ‘seen’ again.
But at least we still had our ‘patch’. The borough where we spent many hours detecting, preventing and fighting crime.
We used to arrest someone, do the necessary paperwork and then hand over the prisoner to a dedicated team who would continue with the investigation (the Case Progression Unit).
This ‘handover’ meant that having arrested someone, you could then get back out on the streets and continue to answer 999 calls and be proactive. You could target known criminals. And we did.
A few years ago, these Case Progression Units were disbanded. Due to more cuts.
So now, response team officers have to deal with their own prisoners. “so what?” I hear you shout.
Each prisoner took maybe 3-4 hours to deal with before handing them over to the CPU.
Whereas now, with the CPU’s gone, one prisoner means pretty much spending your entire shift and the shifts which follow, dealing with mountains upon mountains of paperwork.
This means that officers simply do not have as much time to be proactive.
They do not have as much time to patrol the streets. And they do not have as much time to respond to 999 calls.
Which is part of the reason why, if you live in London, then you might have to endure delays having called 999 for help.
And the final ‘observation’ based on the chat I had with a former colleague over the weekend (the reason for writing this article): the merging of boroughs into ‘Basic Command Units’.
As I retired from the Met several years ago, I can no longer cite personal experience so
And, based on what they are telling me, then it would appear that the ‘cost-saving’ borough mergers are proving to be a nightmare for response teams.
Recently, the Chief Superintendent for the newly formed Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham BCU, Simon Dobson, told NewsShopper.co.uk that the Met no longer has the resources to monitor the 200 CCTV cameras which now form the new ‘super borough’ that he is responsible for.
A new report has revealed resources in Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham were stretched during the transition, with cops facing “some challenges” during the merger.
I have heard from the men and women on the front line, that “some challenges” meant there simply were not enough police units to deal with the never-ending stream of calls for help being made by members of the public.
The move also forced stations to reduce the number of officers, with cop numbers already down by 20,000 since 2010.
At a meeting on April 3, Chief Supt Dobinson told councillors:
“The reality is as a BCU that from when we started as three boroughs to now as one I have 100-odd fewer police posts because of funding requirements.
“Within that I have 91 vacancies, within that I have 57 cops restricted from operational work. I have a six per cent sickness rate, officers connected to operations elsewhere in London.
“The reality is we are playing in the Premier League, we need a squad of 15, starting with 11 – we can put nine on the field and everyone needs to be a striker and a defender and a goalkeeper.”
According to the NewsShopper article, Mr Dobinson said the ‘super’ BCU that he is now responsible for, has brought specialist policing, such as serious sexual offences and child abuse, back to a local level – but officers are being put under more pressure to step in on incidents that they’re not suited for.
“When you look at the changes in demand, we suffer a significant demand for people suffering
“Cops are not trained in mental health to the extent that they are best people to deal with those issues,” he said.
Here we have a situation, where senior officers were forced by politicians to make savings.
We cannot, therefore, blame senior officers for the issues currently being faced by the fine men and women in the Met police and other police forces around the country.
The blame 100% lies with the politicians who, for reasons which defy ANY notion of common sense,
These politicians, who have never spent a day on the front line of policing, thought that CUTTING the police budget at a time when fewer criminals were being sent to prison was a ‘good’ idea.
And now we see Inspectors being told that they face disciplinary proceedings for not being able to meet response times for 999
The decisions which were made by some politicians who are devoid of any common sense, have led to what many people believe is a crises in policing.
Yes, the Government has put more money, in a roundabout way, into policing.
But it will take years to train these officers up and in the meantime, forces are losing fantastic officers because these veteran officers have had enough of the working conditions.
Never again should ANY government ever be allowed to tamper with the flow of funding that the emergency services
What is being played out on the streets, is a tragedy.
Young lives are being lost.
The brave men and women on the frontline are trying to do all that they can, in extremely stressful situations. But they are not superhuman.
I am not one of these individuals who think that all politicians are ‘bad’.
But when you see the damage which a handful of politicians have done to our emergency services, then you are left feeling utterly bemused as to how these people ever managed to wrangle themselves into a position of power.
If you could ‘buy’ common sense, then it would be the most valuable commodity known to man.
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