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Jan 16 2012

Police Commissioner’s Visit to Harrow – Transcript and Video

When the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe (pictured here), visited Harrow recently, there was a turnout of around 160 members of the public to hear his vision of policing in London. The Met have now released a transcript of parts of the speech, and the Q&A which followed. They’ve also release a 4-minute video of just a small part of the evening, which you can view here.

Commissioner: “My ambition is for the Metropolitan Police Service to be the best police service in the country, and then the world; that’s what we’re going to be.

“We’ve picked a style which we call Total Policing – but the idea is to keep the criminal on the back foot. Call it total war on criminals but the idea is if they do anything that is illegal, we will do everything that is legal, ethical and good faith to catch them. We don’t catch every criminal unfortunately, so the second part of what we are going to do is to make sure we have a total care for victims; and the final part for me is to be totally professional.

“If we have managed to be totally professional about the fighting crime part and the helping victims, we’ll probably not go too far wrong.”

Question from member of the audience: “In relation to stop and search in areas that there is predominantly one ethnic group, do you think the Met has got the balance right?”

Commissioner: “We can’t explain why we are stopping far more black people and ethnic minority people than the white population; there is not a very clear explanation for that. I can’t stand here in front of audiences like this and easily explain that. So I think there is something there that we have to explain.

“The second thing is when I come to meetings like this, particularly with young people, a lot of people think that we in many cases could handle the interaction better, you know the attitude could be better.

“So for trade I’m accepting what you said, and I’m accepting that there is an argument there. I also have to be honest and say that from an officer’s perspective sometimes they think they are doing it right, and sometimes it is difficult to deal with some people no matter what you do. It’s a bit difficult to get the balance right.

“Often it goes wrong when police officers feel worried, frightened or aren’t quite sure what’s happening so we have to do something to reassure them. We have to give them some training, techniques, which the more professional we are – even if it is in a difficult situation – the more the public will look in at it and I think, are able to support us.”

Question from member of the audience: “How do we really address hate crime? How do you feel about addressing it in the bigger picture if you like, and what can we do locally to enable people like her to feel safe?”

Commissioner: “The first thing is we have units who are specially dedicated around hate crime, so hopefully better trained and more sensitive to the needs of people who are being attacked.

“It is bad enough to be the victim of crime, but to be attacked for a reason you can do nothing about, is the distinction between hate crime, and we invest an awful lot in trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and ideally if we can, we detect – we do set targets for that. And I think probably the biggest thing is education.”

Question from member of the audience: “Does the Commissioner feel the number of officers involved in Safer Neighbourhoods teams (SNTs) is correct?

Commissioner: “I’m hoping by April we might be able to make some significant announcements about how we might be able to enhance them but I don’t want to make a promise tonight that I can’t keep. But I think we would always like to put more in. Broadly I think the spread of people we’ve got there, and the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), the police officers, and the Sergeants where they are – and I know there has been a reduction of Sergeants – is probably broadly about right given the resources we’ve got.”

Question from member of the audience: “Now I understand that although the number of youth convictions, particular, increased in Harrow, of these convicted the reoffending rate has slightly increased. Do you think this may be due to the level of punishment not being enough of a deterrent? Or what do you think is the best way to deal with those who reoffend?”

Commissioner: “In terms of reoffending rates one of the most effective things that people don’t believe but is true, is a police caution. So 70% of people who get a police caution – it’s often young people – do not reoffend. By the time they’ve gone to prison 80-90% will reoffend. They will come out, and sadly, will reoffend again.”

Question from member of the audience: “Have the MPS actually taken any gangs out of circulation?”

Commissioner: “I hope you will be reassured by the end of this month, possibly beginning of February, about a huge piece of work we are doing around gangs. We think, and I say think because I’m not actually sure that we have the full intelligence yet, we think across London there are 260 gangs, and within that probably about 60 odd who are very dangerous, they hurt people. We are going to target particularly that 60 odd, and then we’ll work our way through them.

“But you have to do three things really. Identify the right leaders, be remorseless in terms of targeting the people who are hurting people and lock them up. And the third thing is, if we can, increase the young people who can be diverted, to divert them.

“That’s the three things working together. You target the ring leaders, you lock up the bad guys, and the third one is if you can really give the alternatives – some of them can be discouraged. But you have to do them all together, and you have to do them in a partnership with the local authorities.”

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