During the mayoral election, we took a look at the candidates’ claims over numbers of police. Boris’s 9 Point Plan said he’d put an extra 1,000 police on the beat – but that wasn’t a promise for the future, that was something he said he’d already done. But it turns out that’s not the case.
There were election arguments over whether Boris had done what he claimed: in brief, in March 2008 the Metropolitan Police had 31,398 warranted officers, reached a peak of 33,260 in March 2010 then fell back towards election time. However, Boris insisted that by the end of his first term in May 2012, there would be 1,000 more police than when he first took office (which would, of course, still be fewer than the middle of his term).
The numbers have now become available and Channel 4 Factcheck has looked them over. Were there 32,398 officers in post in May 2012? No. The Met reports (PDF) 31,684 officers and Boris’s PR team reports 31,816.2 (0.2 of a police officer? Maybe that’s someone on one day a week). Either way, it’s some way off his target and a very clear promise missed.
Beneath all the shouting about numbers, though, is a more nuanced debate about how police are used. Assembly Member and Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones has been saying for ages that warranted officers are being used as back room staff instead of on the front line. With budgets being cut and police numbers predicted to fall, cleverer use of the police we already have will be necessary. Particularly as the document that had the May 2012 police numbers also reveals that, year on year, robbery and residential burglary are rising.