Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2008
Q100 Mr Winnick: ---even if you leave
off the "gone mad". Where do you stand on this particular
Mr Johnson: I firmly believe that
London should be policed by a police force that reflects our community,
and I think what is happening with the PCSOs is very hopeful.
If you look at the recruitment to the PCSOs, we now have about
50% from black and minority ethnic groups and I hope that this
will feed through into recruitment in the Metropolitan Police
generally. We are making progress, it is not as fast as it could
be, and I agree
Q101 Mr Winnick: How can we make
it faster? If it is your wish that it should be quicker and that
the Police Force should, in fact, represent London as a whole,
what would be your policy to quicken the number of ethnic minority
individuals within the Police Force in London?
Mr Johnson: One thing you have
got to do is build up a much greater sense of cohesion between
the community and the police, and you have got to make people
feel that they have a much stronger link with the police and that
they are not just howling past in their squad cars with their
sirens blaring, that they are part of our lives and part of our
world, and that is why I have great hopes for the monthly meetings
with the borough commanders and the community. Hammersmith and
Fulham had a crime summit the other day which was very well attended
by all members of the community, and if you are there and you
are mingling with the police and you gain an understanding of
what policing is all about, then I hope that it will lead to much
more recruitment from communities that currently feel excluded
or do not identify with the police.
Q102 Chairman: But it is pretty bad
at the moment, is it not? There is only one assistant commissioner
who is of ethnic origin. Over the last four years there have been
no more. Would you not perhaps use positive action to try and
get some more people appointed as commanders and beyond? Monthly
meetings are very helpful, obviously, but some further action
perhaps is necessary.
Mr Johnson: Of course, you need
positive role models and you need to give people every possible
encouragement and support. You have got to be very careful not
to lapse into a quota system that generates resentment and invalidates
the whole selection process.
Q103 Tom Brake: On the monthly meetings,
just to clarify, what extra are they going to add beyond what
is already discussed in the police consultative meetings and,
indeed, the ward panel meetings that are organised at a ward level?
Mr Johnson: I agree with you,
there is already an abundance of means by which the neighbourhood
is supposed to be interacting with the police, but, as far as
I can see, you get the same old suspects turning up with the same
Q104 Tom Brake: That happens at public
Mr Johnson: Perhaps, but I think
we should try it and I think we should make sure these things
are well advertised and that people have a genuine sense that
this a forum in which they can make their point.
Q105 Mrs Cryer: Mr Johnson, you have
already suggested that you would like 440 more PCSOs on the streets
of London, and you have suggested that it would be useful to have
them on buses and also that it would relieve other police officers
from administrative duties at the station. It looks to me as if
you are going to be spreading them a bit thinly. Mr Brake has
suggested that this is already happening on the buses. You have
also suggested that there should be some method of removing Oyster
Cards from young people who have committed offences. Is that back
of an envelope stuff or have you really thought about that? If
so, how are you going to administer it?
Mr Johnson: There are already
procedures for removing the right of free travel, not the Oyster
Card itself but the right of free travel, from those who break
the behaviour code. In principle, that happened 6,000 times last
year. In reality, hardly anyone had their right to free travel
revoked permanently. My proposal is that it should be permanently
revoked unless and until the young person in question wants to
earn it back through a scheme I am going to call "Pay back
London", that would allow you, if you want to get back your
right of free travel, to do some community service and prove that
you value it and you are willing to give the community something
back to get it back.
Q106 Mrs Cryer: What I wanted to
know was who is going to make the decision to remove the Oyster
Mr Johnson: There are already
steps in place that removed rights of free travel from, as I said,
6,000 kids last year. The trouble is it is not being permanently
revoked. People are reapplying and getting the ability to travel
almost immediately. What I believe we need is a more substantial
Q107 Mrs Cryer: As regards PCSOs,
you want to remove some of them back into the police stations
to relieve officers from doing administrative work. It is said
that often the PCSOs are very good at actually collecting information
regarding potential terrorist outrages, and so if you remove them
from the streets you will be losing that.
Mr Johnson: I understand the point
you make completely, and I do not intend to remove PCSOs from
the streets. I think actually as a country we should stop the
general bashing of PCSOs and I think some of the "plastic
policeman" rhetoric is misplaced. I think many of them are
doing a fantastic job. They are very variable in quality and they
are very variable in aspirations, but a lot of them want to go
on to become warranted police officers, and they should be supported
and encouraged, I just think there should be freedom to do a bit
of both with the PCSO force; some of them might be better off
in the back room and some of them would be better off out on the
Q108 Martin Salter: Mr Johnson, do
you support the Conservative Party proposals for elected police
commissioners and, if so, could you explain why you have not argued
for it in the Thames Valley, where we are both MPs, since your
election in 2001?
Mr Johnson: I certainly think
there is a case for more democratic accountability for police
commissioners, and I myself believe that the Mayor of London should
have a larger measure of democratic authority over the Metropolitan
Commissioner. However, I accept that there is currently a difficulty,
in the sense that the Commissioner is also responsible for counter-terrorism,
which is a national responsibility, and, therefore, Home Office
prerogatives are invoked, so there is a democratic difficulty
there. I do think generally it would increase public confidence
in the police and increase people's feeling of connection with
what is going on if there were elected police chiefs. Yes, I do.
Q109 Martin Salter: But it is not
without its problems?
Mr Johnson: It is not without
its problems, and I accept the points that Liberty makes about
the baleful effects of politicising the police. I would not want
to see the politicising of the Police Force.
Q110 Martin Salter: One last question
on recruitment, which is something that we both have had an issue
with. You may be aware that on 4 February Thames Valley MPs joined
a cross-party delegation of south-east MPs to protest to the Home
Secretary about the aggressive recruitment policy of the Metropolitan
Police Force in poaching over 1,000 police officers from surrounding
forces over the last five years. You were not at that delegation.
Two years ago you called for more police in your own constituency.
It is a simple question, Mr Johnson. Do you support the steps
to curb the loss of officers to the Metropolitan Police, or have
your priorities changed since you became candidate for the Mayor
Mr Johnson: I want to congratulate
you, Mr Salter, on a brilliant attempt to put me in an impossible
Q111 Martin Salter: Let us see you
Mr Johnson: Let me reassure you,
therefore, by saying that I am in favour of increasing recruitment
all round, and I am very happy to see that actually one of the
recent successes we are having is that we are succeeding in recruiting
very well, both in London and in the Thames Valley. I am happy
to say that the dilemma that you beautifully offer the conclusion
of my interrogation does not arise for the time being.
Q112 Martin Salter: Are you saying
that the Chief Constable of the Thames Valley was wrong to be
raising this matter with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner
and that all the MPs from the south-east, including several here,
who attended that delegation were wrong to be raising this issue,
that there is not really a problem?
Mr Johnson: As far as I am aware,
the problem has been considerably ameliorated and I am happy to
say that I support and encourage the recruitment of more police
officers in both areas, and if you look at the figures, we are
actually being very successful in recruiting in both areas.
Mr Winnick: You surprise us.
Chairman: We do have one last final question
from Mr Russell.
Q113 Bob Russell: Mr Johnson, I wonder
if I could seek some clarification. In reply to Mr Brake I think
you said it was 50 extra officers for British Transport Police
would be funded out of the Mayor's publicity budget.
Mr Johnson: Transport for London's
budget. The 50 BTP officers will be funded from the MPS publicity
Q114 Bob Russell: Transport for London;
okay. The other one was that you were going to put additional
resources, as I understand it, for PCSOs to go on the buses. Bearing
in mind that the whole reason for PSCOs is that they have a physical
footprint in a local community, will these police officers or
PCSOs on the buses be a separate breed or will they be part of
the overall, and, if so, how does than then reflect on the fact
that they have a community base?
Mr Johnson: I do not see any reason
to denominate them as a separate breed. It seems to me that they
could perform a multiplicity of functions, but there is absolutely
no reason at all why we should not have more PCSOs on the buses
giving people the sense of reassurance they want.
Chairman: Mr Johnson, thank you very
much indeed. We know you are very busy. Thank you for coming today
to give evidence.