Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2002
STEVENS QPM, MR
20. You mentioned there is still a very high
turnover; presumably, those who leave are not necessarily lost
to the force, they are simply going back to wherever they came
from, or somewhere else?
(Sir John Stevens) That is absolutely
right. Fifty per cent of the people who join the Metropolitan
Police are not Londoners, so the favourite places they will go
back to are places obviously where they were born, where their
families are, their mothers and fathers, and the like. And this
is one of the things that London suffers from, basically, and
has always suffered from.
21. Are you satisfied that the pay of the front-line
officers is sufficient, compared with the pay of the boys or girls
in the backroom, to make front-line police work attractive? I
think, when you last met the Committee, you complained about that?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes. I think this
is another aspect of the Reform Bill. I think, if we do not reward
the people who are out on the streets doing the job, doing shift-work,
at the very front of policing, more than people who are sitting
behind desks, then we are not doing the job as we should do it.
And that is why one of the aspects of the kind of wage discussion
at the moment is about rewarding people at the front line in the
way we should; and, unless we do that, I believe, we are not giving
credit to the people who are taking all the dangers on the street,
and you know that there are massive dangers on the street, in
terms of physical assault and abuse, and the like. So I, for one,
and I know all of us here agree we must reward the front-line
officer more than we reward those who do a very important job,
perhaps in a control room, but we must reward those on the street.
22. And do you believe the coming reforms will
give you the flexibility to do that?
(Sir John Stevens) I do, indeed, yes,
23. Just on élite detective squads, you
mentioned a moment ago that you were short, and you were having
to bring one or two people back from retirement, but the opposite
danger to that is that people can spend too long in such squads
and acquire bad habits; that has happened in some of the regional
crime squads, as we all know about?
(Sir John Stevens) I think you have got
to reach the balance. I think, where we had tenure previously,
where people were going in only for three years, or four years,
and then moving around, that probably might have been alright
for the times, but I think what you have to do is ensure that
people who train up, and we spend tens of thousands of pounds
training these people up, are put in the right positions. As a
counterbalance to that, to the very real problem that you talk
about, you have to have a proper corruption strategy, and we have
had plaudits from all over the world for the one Paul Condon and
I introduced four years ago, well, three and a half years ago
now. You have got to have a proper anti-corruption and dishonesty
strategy which is something that you know that works, and therefore
that will counterbalance, I think, some of the issues that quite
rightly you bring up, and some of the bad practice and some of
the corruption and criminal behaviour that took place in some
places round the country years ago.
24. Not so many years ago, actually?
(Sir John Stevens) It was not, no.
25. But once you become a detective, you do become
a detective for life, or might you go back to uniform; and, if
you went back to uniform, would it be seen as a punishment?
(Sir John Stevens) No, I do not think
so. We all wear the uniform, and are proud to do so. No, I think
not. I think that you have to have a balance. I was a career detective
for 20-odd years, or whatever, and then went to uniform and had
a mix, of going to the Staff College as a trainer, and so on and
so forth, and Ian Blair had the same. You have got to understand
what policing is about in the round. And I think there has to
come a stage in a detective's career when you do not lose the
expertise, when you do allow him to see that there are other sides
of policing; the same applies to traffic, Thames Division, and
the like. You have to see that this is a big organisation that
delivers in all sorts of ways; if you do not, you become parochial.
But, at the same time, we must hold on to those people who are
outstanding detectives, bearing in mind that we need them for
murder inquiries, and the like, and some of the very sophisticated
things we are involved in at the moment.
26. Going back to front-line police officers,
who are out on beat duty, is there a habit of nicking someone
in the first hour or two of a cold night and then spending the
next four or five hours back at the station, doing the paperwork?
(Sir John Stevens) I would like to think
27. And, if there is, have you managed to crack
(Sir John Stevens) I think one of the
biggest problems is not the fact that they will go and do that
and get in. I went up to a north west London police station recently,
where someone was arrested for a very low-level crime, you know,
shop-lifting, I think it was for something like £1, or something
ridiculous, not ridiculous, obviously, to the person who lost
that money; but he then had to take this person into the police
station, he was off the streets, in a town which had only two
officers walking round there, for seven hours. Now we have to
find better ways of dealing with things like that. So I do not
think it is a matter of police officers arresting people and then
going in and keeping in the warm, so to speak, it is a matter
of the systems, which have got to be changed, and we have got
to be quite bold, and maybe radical, about dealing with these
28. And will the proposed reforms give you the
discretion to do that?
(Sir John Stevens) I think the reforms
go only so far. What is happening at the moment is, the ex-Chief
Inspector of Constabulary, Sir David O'Dowd, is looking at the
bureaucracy of things; and what we are looking for is something
which will allow officers to take them to the police station,
into the charge room, spend a minimum period of time there, and
technology should take over. There are some forces in the country
who do have a kind of seamless thing, where you take someone in
the charge room, and these things were introduced seven years
ago in the North East, as I think you know, and it allows the
officer to place the person he has charged there and get back
out on the street as quickly as possible, where we need them.
29. Commissioner, I want to refer to the various
aspects of crime levels, but nearer home, if I can put it like
that. Your predecessor, and you yourself when you met us in January,
referred to a very, very small number of police officers who were
considered to be corrupt; you emphasised that it was a very small
number, your predecessor, as indeed yourself, spoke about between
100 and 250 officers in the Met, but accepted that the damage
they could do to the reputation and morale was very big indeed.
Now what I would like to ask you is, have you got rid of those
(Sir John Stevens) When I was Deputy
Commissioner, I think the figure was between a half and 1 per
cent, which was about 100 to about 250, or 120-150. We have actually
convicted 54 people now; there are another 14 police officers
waiting to go through the courts, in terms of corruption charges.
What we certainly ascertained was that there were probably between
100 and 120 officers who were involved in corrupt activities.
We can safely say that those officers have been dealt with in
the way we needed to deal with them, bearing in mind, of course,
that there are still trials to take place towards the middle or
the end of the year; these things take an awfully long time to
come to fruition. Where we really are quite pleased, and we have
to acknowledge the help that the Federation has given on this,
is with the corruption strategy, where we use integrity testing
now, and the like, and we have been doing that for three to four
years. So, from my point of view, as heading the fight against
corruption before I became Commissioner, we have certainly taken
some very quick steps, successful steps, in terms of ridding ourselves
of some of those officers. But, before I hand over to Ian, if
I may say so, in a city like London, or any big city, there is
always going to be the temptation for police officers to be corrupt.
Fortunately, in the Metropolitan Police, it is a very small number.
But the temptations, on the amount of money that runs around drugs,
you know, we are making cash recoveries of £1 million, and
that type of thing, and the way we know some of the organised
criminals are operating actually to try to get in to some of our
officers and corrupt them by a gradual process, we must make sure
we have a very effective anti-corruption branch, CIB3, that works
to root these people out, because, as you said earlier, Sir, one
corrupt officer is one too many.
30. But you do accept, from what you have said,
Sir John, that the chance of having a totally corruption-free
Met force is impossible, or as near impossible in an imperfect
world as we have to accept?
(Sir John Stevens) Absolutely, I do not
think there is any doubt about that. And what we must make sure
is that we have got that system that takes the confidence away
from someone, or the arrogance, or even the ability just to completely
push aside the law, to take the chances.
(Mr Blair) If I might just add to that. I think the
significant recognition is that corruption is not cyclical, it
is actually ever present, and that organised crime will seek out
officers to corrupt, it is part of their business plan, if we
can describe it that way, and, therefore, our intelligence-led
approach to this will have to remain. And, interestingly, in the
discussions that we have had with the Police Complaints Authority,
as it moves towards being independent, one of the issues that
we have been talking about is that this is much closer to organised
criminality than it is to public complaints, and we need to retain
the kind of activity, which is very, very significant, in terms
of staff numbers, and the very long-term penetration operations
against organised crime.
31. Thank you very much. I want to turn now to
the wider issue. Street crime is very alarming at the moment,
is it not, Sir John?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes.
32. For example, there have been a number of
reports very recently in the press, and the Home Secretary yesterday,
in his speech in Nottingham, called for police strikes to smash
the street gangs which are carrying out a wave of car-jackings,
and mobile "phone thieves. Are you on top of the job, or,
let me put it differently, is the force on top of the job, in
dealing with this?
(Sir John Stevens) We are certainly on
top of the job; and the initiative we announced about three weeks
ago comes on top of other initiatives. There has been an explosion
in street crime, and I would like to explain the reasons probably
why and what we intend to do about it. Arrests for street crime
are up 26.6 per cent on what they were last year, we are arresting
more people now for street crime than we have ever done in our
history. What we are finding is a new phenomenon; three-quarters
of the people we are arresting for robbery now have no previous
convictions. That is something we have never ever come across,
and what it means is that people are going to nearly the top of
the criminal calendar when they are committing offences, rather
than what has happened in the past, a gradual work-up to the offence
of robbery. We have a real problem in this city, and I have said
it publicly before, about youth crime. I cannot talk about research
that has come out of certain trials, because those trials are
taking place at the moment, but we will have more to say about
that when these trials have finished. There is, without doubt,
in this city, disaffected youth, disassociated youth, which research
has shown have been in care from the age of 12 onwards, all have
been physically or sexually abused, they have not been in school
for four to five years, their peer group are gangs, and they actually
are not, in any way, having any kind of sensitivity of the like
of the sensitivities that you or I have. Now we have to get a
grip on these people; we are arresting more of them, but street
crime is still going up, to an extent which is alarming. Now we
have to ask the question, if we are arresting more, why are we
not having an effect on street crime and bringing street crime
down, and a lot of work is being done on that. But certainly we
have in each borough, and one of the initiatives which we are
into now is, which involves these 500 officers and more, the business
of actually targeting persistent offenders, 320 persistent offenders.
And, quite frankly, we need to take the battle to them on the
streets and take their confidence away from them, because they
are arrogant and they are abusive and they are violent thugs,
and I am afraid the place for them is in police stations so the
public can have a rest and respite from their activities.
33. Yes, but these street gangs, and I have no
wish to exaggerate the situation, as bad as it is, without any
form of exaggeration, some of these street gangs, in parts of
London, are inflicting misery, and there is no other way of describing
it, on law-abiding citizens, and the feeling amongst those law-abiding
citizens is, it is not confined by any means to London, but since
we are dealing with the London situation, that no effective action
is being taken. But it is a sort of lawlessness which is totally
unacceptable in a country like ours, and a lot of criticism, fair
or unfair, is being targeted at the Met. What is your response,
(Sir John Stevens) Our response to that
is that we will be on the job, and we have put in our resources
and are focusing our resources. The types of activities that have
taken place specifically over the last two months are totally
unacceptable to us, and we will arrest these people time after
time, as we do; sometimes these people are bailed eight or nine
times, as a result of which we lose witnesses and we lose the
evidence that we need, and a certain amount of enthusiasm goes
out of the prosecution. We will arrest them time after time, believe
you me; that is our job. And, remember, we have arrested 26.6
per cent more this year than we did last year, let us increase
that to 50 or 60 per cent. If they think they can get away with
what they are doing on the streets, they are making a big mistake.
34. Why is Lower and Upper Clapton Roads in north
London a place where there does not seem to be, as you well know,
in Hackney, why is it that the murder rate is so high there, and
the general feeling, again, as far as I can tell, from press reports,
responsible press reports, is that little action is being taken
by the police to find the killers?
(Sir John Stevens) That is in relation
to, there are some boroughs where there is a very high amount
of murder, and that goes into the Trident activity. We have got
170-180 officers on Trident; they have had superb results. There
have been 460 arrests this year, they have recovered something
like 180 firearms; that activity goes on. The problem is that
there has been a 46 per cent increase in gun crime, something
which I talked about six to nine months ago, a 46 per cent increase
in gun crime; sometimes when we get to these incidents there is
no victim there, even though there is blood on the floor, and
things have been cleared up. Now when you are trying to investigate
crimes of that nature, which involve organised crime and drug
activity, it is very difficult; but what we are doing is building
up intelligence, and we are going to be putting another 60 officers
on Trident over the next year, and dealing with it in the way
we know we need to deal with it. It is the witnesses and support;
and, as you know, and I am sure everybody in this room knows,
it is not just a job for the police, we have to have the evidence
before we can arrest people and convict people, and we, the police,
cannot produce all the evidence. And this needs a battle across
the spectrum, from authorities, school, health, political support,
from people like yourselves, who I know support us, in terms of
getting into this and dealing with it in the way that we all want
it dealt with.
35. Is it correct that in the areas which I have
just mentioned, in Hackney, there have been, in fact, seven fatal
shootings within the last two years?
(Sir John Stevens) I think that is probably
right, yes; in Lambeth it would be even more.
36. And how many have been arrested?
(Sir John Stevens) The detection rate
for murder last year was the highest rate that we have ever had,
90 per cent.
37. I am talking about the particular area?
(Sir John Stevens) I do not know. I would
have to come back to you in detail on that.
38. Would you send us a note?
(Sir John Stevens) Absolutely; a full
note, in detail, of each and every one, yes.
39. Harlesden, in north west London, is another,
very much a trouble spot, when it comes to murders, am I correct?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes; and Brent as
1 See Appendix, Ev 107. Back