Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 114)



  Q100  Mr Winnick: ---even if you leave off the "gone mad". Where do you stand on this particular point?

  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 old—

  Q104  Tom Brake: That happens at public meetings.

  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 Card?

  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 sanction.

  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 streets.

  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 of London?

  Mr Johnson: I want to congratulate you, Mr Salter, on a brilliant attempt to put me in an impossible position.

  Q111  Martin Salter: Let us see you wriggle then!

  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 budget.

  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.

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