The Metropolitan Police has lost 3,062 officers since the last mayoral election, according to figures revealed today.
In May last year, it was reported that numbers were down 2,900 — despite London mayor Boris Johnson's pre-election pledge to keep the total around 32,000 — though deputy mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh puts it down to 'natural wastage' following a hiring freeze in 2012. Scotland Yard has had to dig deep to find £500m in savings, and managed to cut costs in the senior ranks rather than the front line. It also looked at outsourcing support and back office services.
The current figure of 30,085 is rather lower than Greenhalgh's predicted 'doomsday scenario' of 31,000 last year:
“However, the current total is as low as I expect it to go, and from next month police numbers will start to rise again in line with the Mayor’s budget to get us back up to 31,000 officers in the next few months and 32,000 by next spring. The Met is now hiring 5,000 police constables and that means London is going to see hundreds of new cops hitting the streets every month — a scenario most other forces could only dream of.”
That sounds promising, though when Boris Johnson's office made the same statement to Channel 4's FactCheck last year, they pointed out "it doesn’t mean that if we have 32,000 officers now, we’ll have 37,000 in 2016. It means we’ll have the same number of police in three years time, as London’s population continues to grow". If you take a look at the figures in the London Datastore, it's not just numbers of officers that is down, it's also numbers of civilian staff and PCSOs. Recorded crime was also down when you compare December 2012 with December 2013 — or was it?
As if in a bid to foil a creative attempt to plug a spending gap, police guidelines will apparently be revised to prevent the Met from assisting in private prosecutions in return for cash. That's certainly one way to find money for extra officers and would almost certainly result in 100% detection in fraud cases. In other police spending news, we're still slightly mystified over the financial justification for buying water cannon at £1.3m each, then spending presumably a significant amount of money training officers to use them — unless they really do plan to share them with the London Fire Brigade.
Photo by HartwellPhotography in the Londonist Flickr pool.