Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2002
STEVENS QPM, MR
60. Yes; that would be very helpful. I recall
that Northumbria did that, perhaps under your stewardship, a few
(Sir John Stevens) We did, indeed, Chairman,
yes, and highly successful; crime down by 40 to 50 per cent.
61. Absolutely; we remember it well, yes. Just
going back to policemen on patrol, on the beat, and making them
more effective, is there a role for the humble bicycle, do you
(Sir John Stevens) Yes, there is.
62. Is it being used?
(Sir John Stevens) I do not regard it
as being too humble, actually. It is very interesting, to go to
places like Kentish Town and the north west of London and speak
to police officers who are on bicycles, who have actually been
sponsored by local business; they do not regard it as being humble,
because the type of bicycle they are riding the youngsters believe
are similar to jet fighters. So I believe there is a lot more
to be done with bicycles, I think it is a good way of moving round
London; cars are a difficulty, and that is something we are working
on very hard.
Bob Russell: There is a temptation for them
to be stolen though, Chairman.
63. I am sure they are very secure, these bicycles?
(Sir John Stevens) We do secure them
to railings; and certainly the experience in Kentish Town is,
where I went up to, to launch a scheme up there, that we did not
lose very many.
Chairman: We are turning now to police reform.
64. Sir John, you have already explained your
enthusiasm for auxiliaries, and I think you have given us some
sort of view of why you almost prefer supplementing the force
with auxiliaries rather than just additional police officers;
that view is not shared universally, and certainly my own police
constable in Kent is not as enthusiastic as you are. Is the difference
all to do with security in London, or something else?
(Sir John Stevens) I would not speak
for other Chief Constables, I would certainly speak for Northumbria,
and, if I may, for Sedgefield, where I went and launched the multi
kind of, the opening of the building where they are using police
officers, wardens, nurses, and the rest, in a kind of combined
approach, which has been highly successful. I think, for London,
we are different; and why I say that is the terrorist threat,
for a start-off. We cannot police the centre of London without
taking people away from the boroughs, which has already been remarked
on as not being supportive of what we are trying to do in the
boroughs, without having between 300 and 700 auxiliaries in the
centre of London. And Dave Veness, who is the Assistant Commissioner,
Specialist Operations, the most experienced man in policing history
in this area, says that we must have auxiliaries to deliver what
we have to for the centre of London, to protect yourselves and
others, in this area, in particular.
65. Can you tell us something about the experiment,
the pilot scheme, that took place last year in Lambeth, where
I think you used private security firms to supplement the police
(Mr Blair) I am not aware of that issue,
but if I could broaden the debate to what I think you are aiming
at, as it were. The second level behind the security piece is
the sense that everything that you are saying suggests what we
believe, that the public require a reassuring, patrolling presence;
and we have a number of London boroughs that want now to form
their own police forces, it is a bit of a lacuna in the law, lots
of legislation around how a police force should operate but there
is no legislation to stop you forming a police force if you want
to. And a number of boroughs have approached us, Wandsworth, for
instance, with their Parks Police, wanting to extend their Parks
Police onto the street, Kensington and Chelsea wanting to produce
a borough community force; and we believe that potentially this
is a Balkanisation of policing in London, with rich areas having
better provision, a return perhaps to pre-1829. And so we are
arguing very firmly that what we want to do is set up this auxiliary
force, so that there is one contiguous and connected force available.
Part of the difficulty that policing has, and you have heard about
it just now, is the number of demands being placed on the police,
in terms of whether it is gun crime, what will come out of the
Climbié inquiry, plus the sheer level of demand, means
that police officers even if they hit the street will be rapidly
off it again, either with arrests or seeing witnesses, or whatever.
And one of the things that we feel we need, and why we are so
keen on auxiliaries, is it is a force that is there and which
does not leave the street, which is the key point, it is actually
there, but it is part of the Met as a whole, clearly marked as
part of the Met as a whole. And we have argued firmly with that,
the Home Secretary has backed us, which is why the Bill has this
concept of directly-employed, community support officers.
66. If you were able to look ahead three years,
four years, how would you see the powers, strengths and duties
of all these various tiers of policing?
(Sir John Stevens) I see them as part
of what we have referred to, for a long while now, as an extended
police family. I think one of the weaknesses that we have in our
present system is, it is layered, and there is no continuum, if
you like, of intelligence. If you look at what happens here, let
us take people on the door here, and that can be replicated right
the way round London and the City, there a continuum, if a person
who is on the door here sees someone suspicious, has worries about
them, is there a continuum of intelligence that works its way
from him, or her, into the police systems. And I believe, if we
can get this right, and I do believe, of course, there are other
parts of the country where we will not want auxiliaries, for all
sorts of reasons, that is a matter for them, but there are places
that have been using what we would call auxiliaries, the north
side of the Tyne, for one, Sedgefield, and other places, who have
been using auxiliaries for a while, which have not caused a problem,
I believe it should be part of an extended police family. I think
the training should be done by the police, just as we did the
training for bouncers in London, Liverpool, Manchester, and if
that is the case and if the proper safeguards are there I believe
it can work. What is the alternative for us in London, to continue
to use 300-700 or even 1,000 police officers in the centre of
London to secure the centre of London and take them away from
the boroughs; that is not on. So, for us, in London, it is an
immediate problem that we believe can be dealt with now, and if
we can get it right, in the centre of London, in terms of the
rules, the safeguards, the accountability, I think that is something
we need to think about, if we can get that right I think it can
work for other places as well. But I would be the last one to
turn round and say, because we want it in London, use it elsewhere.
67. That is a fair response. Just staying within
the London concept, have you got a feeling for the difference
in powers these various categories will have and their different
(Sir John Stevens) We have, and I will
pass you to Ian, on that, if I may.
(Mr Blair) The powers set out in the Bill are broadly
the powers that we see as appropriate, and they are, for the auxiliary
officers, the power to deliver a fixed penalty notice for low-level
offences, say, graffiti, minor vandalism, minor disorder, but
you have got to give them also the power to require a name and
address, because otherwise you cannot have a fixed penalty notice,
and also the power to detain, pending the arrival of a constable,
if that person refuses their name and address. We have also got
a provision in the Bill for them, if an area is declared an area
subject to the provisions of the Terrorism Act, which is about
a power to stop and search, then those auxiliaries will have the
power to set up cordons, under the direction of a constable, and
to search vehicles and baggage, almost in the same way as you
would do in relation to airport security, or anything else. They
will not have the powers to stop and search, they will not have
batons, they will not have handcuffs, they will not have CS gas,
they are not police officers; what they are is a direct labour
force who are able to pick up the low-level offences, the low-level
disorder, that drives people mad across London, and which, if
you are running from one gun crime to another, you are very unlikely
to consider getting involved with somebody who says, "I'm
fed-up with the way this kid's spray-canned this fence."
So it is that kind of work that we have in mind, and we are very
keen on that.
68. Can you give us a view of the training, the
depth of training, the length of training, if you take someone
literally off the street, without any background?
(Mr Blair) What we are aiming at, at
the moment, is an initial two-weeks' training, and as the powers
come on stream, through the legislation, then we will give further
training in situ. But we give two weeks' training to the
people that guard this place, so I think that is the parallel
that we have in our minds.
69. And your recruitment area, will it be the
same as the one you have described for auxiliaries?
(Sir John Stevens) It will be across
London, and those people who joined would not have the free travel,
but we would be looking for people in London, basically, I think;
and we believe that there is a labour pool out there that would
70. Is it requiring any qualifications, or any
particular level of education?
(Mr Blair) We would have thought not.
As I said, one of the things we want to use this for is as another
entry process into the police, we want to see some of these people
getting NVQs in security. The scheme which we are basing it on
is the Stadswacht, in Amsterdam, which has been very successful
at bringing people into the policing family, and it has been particularly
successful at bringing people from minority ethnic communities
into that family. We have got to be careful here, because the
last thing we want is to create a kind of two-tier ghetto, in
which minority ethnic people join the auxiliaries but the white
people join the Police Service. We have got the full support of
the Police Authority for this process, they have a very clear
view about diversity issues, as do we, and I think it has got
every potential to be very successful.
71. Finally, perhaps, on the police family, how
far do you want to move, in terms of giving additional powers
to traffic wardens, and how will their final role differ from
community support officers?
(Sir John Stevens) I think the traffic
warden is a classic example of how people can be in uniform and
do an excellent job. We would like to see them having powers to
stop vehicles, but again we are into the business of not detaining
them, or detaining them for 30 minutes until the professional
police officer, who has been trained to that higher level, comes
and deals with it. We have been using traffic wardens for a period
of time, in terms of enhancing our intelligence input, and for
doing jobs which are not totally related to traffic, because most
criminals travel by car, perhaps not in London because it takes
too long to get round the place, but they do travel around. So
the traffic warden, I think, is an excellent example of how we
can broaden out and use people who are not actually fully-trained
police officers, in a way that is of benefit for London.
72. And how will the roles differ between the
enhanced traffic warden, shall I call him, and the community support
(Mr Blair) We actually see the traffic
wardens effectively migrating into community support officers.
All you need to do is to declare somebody, that they are a traffic
warden, as it were, within the community support process. We are
certainly not going to make anybody redundant, we are certainly
not going to be forcing anybody in that direction. But we have
got this arrangement, that the Commissioner mentioned, with Transport
for London, setting up the secure bus routes, and we see that,
initially, will be police officers and traffic wardens, but over
time it will be police officers and auxiliaries who have traffic
73. Just on the business of the traffic wardens,
have they not just gone from the Met into the responsibility of
the borough councils?
(Mr Blair) No, that is a different group.
What the borough councils have got is they have got the power
to raise income from parking fines, so, in general, the boroughs
have started to set up their own effective traffic warden force,
which is why we have been running down the traffic wardens. We
were never going to run them down completely because they protect
what are currently the Red Routes, and they are also available
for public order and football, and so on.
74. So there will not be a conflict between these
two groups then?
(Mr Blair) There should not be.
Chairman: Mr Cameron has some question on the
75. It is on the Standards Unit and also on police
reform. The point my Chief Inspector, who runs my local police
station in my constituency, always makes to me about police reform
is, he says, "The problem is, if you have a constable who
is not corrupt but just is not particularly good at his job, it
is very difficult to get rid of them." Is that still the
(Sir John Stevens) It is the case, but
there are systems coming in about efficiency in the way we can
deal with that and getting rid of people by efficiency; but it
has been the case that it has been very difficult to do that.
However, what I would say to the Chief Inspector, hopefully he
is not in the Metropolitan Police, is that he has powers to get
on top of someone who is not working properly; and I would expect
someone who was wearing three pips on their shoulder to get out
and lead the person, even, if necessary, personally, or if necessary
put a bit of pressure on them. Because we have no room for any
people who are passengers in the organisation, as you all know,
at the moment.
76. But there are cases when people just are
not particularly good at the job, and in any other profession
or business you would warn them, they would have a series of warnings
and then they would be fired; but there is nothing in the Police
Bill that is going to change that, is there, as far as I can see?
(Mr Blair) There does not need to be,
because those efficiency provisions are in; but, I have to tell
you, because of the way that they were negotiated with the Federation,
they are just as complex as the processes of discipline, and the
first person was dismissed on that in Lancashire a few months
ago. It is an immensely complicated process.
77. It is quite a contrast, I hate to bring your
attention to it, with your own position, in the Police Bill, the
Secretary of State may require the Metropolitan Police Authority
to exercise its power under Section 9(e) to call upon the Commissioner,
or Deputy Commissioner, in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness,
to retire or resign. And he can just sack you?
(Sir John Stevens) It appears so. It
has got to go through the House though.
78. And what is your view on that clause; entirely,
of course, ignoring your own interests in this?
(Sir John Stevens) We, in the Metropolitan
Police, are used to dealing with the Home Secretary, because he
was our Police Authority until a year and a half ago; so actually
he did have that residual power right up to a year and a half
ago, before we had a Police Authority which came along, which
I think is one of the better things that has happened to the Metropolitan
Police. I think there has to be a very, very detailed debate on
what is operational independence and what might affect operational
independence. I am not talking about this Home Secretary, or Mr
Straw, or anybody else. I believe that, the worst case scenario,
you should look at someone who might be the Home Secretary who
may well want to exercise control over Chief Constables, and it
is a golden thread of British justice that the police are independent.
Now I am not going to give you cause céle"bre
in cases whereby, if there was political interference in the way
we do our investigations in London, or in other parts of the country,
we would be in difficulty; and it must be held that the Police
Service is independent and can exercise its rights of pushing
the law out and enforcing the law independent of political control.
That does not mean to say that if we are not delivering a service
as well as we should, and people like yourselves and Londoners
feel that we are not doing the service right, someone should not
come in and say, "Well, look, Stevens, you're not doing that
right, because in that part of the country this works and that
works, so get on and do it." But the absolute essential point
is, and I really must emphasise this, if I may, we must have the
ability to act independently, because otherwise we may well be
influenced in things like corruption, both local and central government,
or, if I might say so, the type of inquiry I am still doing in
Northern Ireland, which has to be done without any political interference
at all, and I would not do it if that were not the case. I have
had none. But what I am saying is, what if there were political
interference in the investigation I am doing on collusion, Finucane,
and the like; I would be lost.
79. Would you have sympathy with a view that
said, well, what on earth was the point of setting up a Police
Authority for London if, just a year and a half, or two years,
later, you are going to override that and bring back the Home
Secretary having control over the removal of the Commissioner?
(Mr Blair) There is a point that we do
need to emphasise, which is that those powers already exist. Section
11 and Section 42 of the Police Act, that is a replication of
those powers. The only additional power that the Home Secretary
has sought, in this Bill, is the right to suspend the Chief Officer.