Policing of the G20 Protests - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Questions 320-336)


19 MAY 2009

  Q320  Tom Brake: That would be useful to know because of course you have chosen not to introduce them for all operational officers; is that correct?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: No. We have chosen to increase the deployment of tasers. Initially we were deploying tasers only to firearms-trained officers; now we deploy them to additional other TSG officers, a small number, so that they can make them more readily available to support officers on the streets. You are right in saying we have chosen not to deploy them to all operational officers; we have not but we have increased the deployment.

  Q321  Tom Brake: So far, what do you feel that their effectiveness has been?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I think the additional deployment has been very successful. I do not have the data here with me but the data that I have looked at indicates to me that the use of tasers in that careful way has reduced injury, both to police officers and to people who would otherwise be subject to other enforcement effort. I think it has been a very successful deployment. Critically, in doing it, I have to bear in mind a number of things. First, I have to bear in mind cost. That is a big issue for me in most things that we do, quite clearly, and so it should be. Deploying and then maintaining tasers across some 30,000 odd police officers is a significant issue, which the Home Office probably would not go to. Secondly, I have to look at the different geography of London. By deploying to a 24/7 capability of TSG officers, it may well be I can achieve the same effect because I have it readily available. It would be fair to say that smaller forces would not have that 24/7 capability to deploy. Thirdly, I have to ensure that I maintain community support for what we do. This is London and I work very hard to ensure that not only do I return the support of my governance side, the Police Authority, but that of communities. However we take this debate forward with tasers, my view is that it should be measured; it should be evidence-based; and it should be based on reducing injury to the public, reducing injury to officers, and it must be affordable in the long term.

  Q322  Tom Brake: Given that it has been a success in the relatively limited way that you have described, are there any circumstances in which you think you would want to extend it more fully to operational officers?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: We will keep that under careful evaluation. If I think it will achieve the things I have just outlined, I will go back to the Police Authority and discuss it with them. Whilst it is an operational decision to deploy, this will be a significant amount of money that will be a budgetary matter. It is sensible for me to take it forward and do anything I would do on this to ensure I return the support of my Police Authority, but more importantly ensure I take the community of London with me. I think if we were to move this forward, we would have to ensure we have a dialogue with the people who are paying our wages and whom we are looking to protect.

  Q323  Tom Brake: Finally, can I ask whether the training costs have been a significant issue for the force, because that is not funded by the Home Office?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: When I talk about cost, it is not just about the purchase of these things; I always talk about total costs and training costs are always a huge issue. The training budget for the Met is a very significant budget and we need to make sure we give the right training but minimise the cost. Of course qualification and re-qualification on these would be an ongoing revenue cost to us.

  Q324  Ms Buck: Stop and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act rose to something around 12,000 a month. How effective were they and could you explain to us exactly how you reached the balance of the value of stop and search against the disproportionate impact it was having on black and minority ethnic communities?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I think, as you are probably aware, we significantly increased the use of Section 44 following the Haymarket incidents and what went on to be the attempt in Glasgow. This is a power that we want to retain. We increased its use because it is about creating a hostile environment for terrorists but I do accept it is a power that, used unwisely, can lead to negativity and lack of public support. At the end of the day, in this country we are policed by public consent. I think I have made my views known and that we have now moved towards a pilot to reduce the indiscriminate use of that power. I want to retain that power.

  Q325  Ms Buck: Should it ever have been used indiscriminately?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I think it was probably the right response at the time because of the nature of the threat we felt we were facing and to send a message to the terrorists that London was a hostile environment. I think we have done much around that and I think we have learnt from that. To be fair, I think we have also learnt from the fact that the level of disproportionality is a balancing act; there are benefits and disbenefits. I think we got to a point where the disbenefits were outweighing the benefits in terms of the way it was being used. I am not saying we were irresponsible but I think you learn lessons and you make that benefits and disbenefits balance. I think the balance is that we need to be far more focused.

  Q326  Mrs Dean: Following on from that, does the decision to reduce the use of stop and search under Section 44 have any implications for the use of stop and search in Operation Blunt to tackle knife crime?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: Of course, in the public's mind stop and search is stop and search. I do accept that. As you would expect, I look at it much differently because I should look at tactics such as this and these are, as I have said many times, very intrusive tactics. I should look at the tactics specifically as to what effect I am trying to achieve and what the benefits and disbenefits are. We have significantly increased our stop and search in relation to Operation Blunt—that is absolutely undeniable—using PACE and Section 60 stop and searches. The effect of that I believe can be seen in the figures. By the way, and I am far from complacent, I still think there are far too many youth murders and there are far too many youth victims and youth perpetrators, but there have been significant reductions. One of the key alterations in the figures is that our interventions are leading to a smaller yield of weaponry. When we first started this we had a ratio of 2 point something and we are now down to less than 1. Actually, we are finding fewer weapons because our intent is to send a message that if you carry a knife, you are likely to be stopped; if you are stopped, you are likely to be charged; if you are charged, you are likely to go to court and there is severe punishment for that. I think we have done that but at all times—it is a bit like my answer to the taser questions—we have worked very hard to maintain community support. We have panels in place across our communities under Operation Pennant, which has been the subject of best practice commentary, publishing the data so people can see what we are doing, but also working with communities and with observers on our Blunt 2 patrols to ensure that communities know we are using this tactic to protect them with them to do what they want. Thus far, we are keeping the communities with us but it is a sensitive balance and we need to keep redoubling our efforts.

  Chairman: The Committee will be publishing its report into knife crime next week, Commissioner.

  Q327  Bob Russell: Do you share our concern about the Home Office's decision to cease funding for the Met's Human Trafficking Unit?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: Firstly, I always share concern if I am not going to get as much money as I thought I was going to get. I would be a foolish commissioner to say I have more resources than I need. From the Met perspective, we have to put this into a context. The human trafficking team is one part of the Met's wider commitment to tackling human trafficking—smuggling, trafficking, illegal immigration crime—because it touches on a number of our units. The original discussion around this actually only affected one part of our much wider operation but we are going to keep that Human Trafficking Unit in place whilst we go through a review as to what is the most effective use of our resources. If you ask me if I would like the funding to continue and if I am happy that funding is being removed, I would like funding to continue; I am never happy when funding is removed.

  Q328  Bob Russell: Commissioner, could I pursue that because you said "in context" and I want to suggest in context that the Met's Human Trafficking Unit is not just for London; it of UK-wide importance. Indeed, it has been deemed to be so successful, I understand it is being used as a role model for police forces elsewhere in the world. With that in mind, is it not strange it should be downgraded?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: What I am saying is that we have maintained our current response pending the outcome of that review, but regrettably we do not have the money that we once had from the Home Office.

  Q329  Bob Russell: Is the review likely to suggest it should be expanded or maintained? My experience of reviews is that they are moving in the other direction.

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I have to say that I do not know what the review will say. I await the outcome of the review. I am not going to prejudge the outcome of that review. I want to ensure that the asset that we get, that I get, is used to best effect for this very distressing area.

  Q330  Bob Russell: But you do recognise, I hope, that this is regarded as a very successful unit, so successful that some police forces around the world want to model theirs on what the Met has achieved.

  Sir Paul Stephenson: That is why just because we have lost the funding, we have not removed our capability. It is right and proper that if I am going to lose funding I then have to review how best we use that asset. We are reviewing it. I am not prejudging the outcome of that review.

  Q331  Bob Russell: Should this Committee suggest to the Home Secretary that there should be sufficient funding provided? I think I know the answer.

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I think you know the answer. I can only suggest that money like that is well used by the Met.

  Q332  Chairman: Finally on this section before we turn to the G20, some members of this committee have been to Europol to see the very good work that is being done there. We have now a new British Director. One of the issues concerned with our officers serving on Europol is that they all had to resign from the police force in order to take up appointments at Europol, whereas in other countries they can retain their service and their pension, serve for two years on Europol, and then return to their police forces. In that way, our officers get a lot of experience in dealing with one of the most important organisations in the world as far as human trafficking and other serious crime is concerned. Do you have any views on that, Commissioner?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: My knowledge does not extend to the employment conditions in Europol, so I could not really comment on that. I would say that in quite a number of areas of crime we find huge benefits where we deploy some of our assets in key partner agencies and in key partner countries; we do it with counter-terrorism and we do it with organised crime. The logic of having people working in key agencies maybe aboard that brings benefit to the nation and benefits to the Metropolitan Police Service, and from my point of view most importantly benefits to London, is there but I could not comment on the employment rights, conditions and constraints because it is outwith my knowledge.

  Q333  Chairman: Let us now turn to G20 for the remaining few minutes of this evidence session. You are on record as saying immediately after the G20 protest when the press was reporting what was happening, and I quote you and tell me if this quote is wrong, that the headlines should read: "Astonishing operation by the Met who did a first-class job." Do you have cause either to regret what you said at the time or to look back and think that maybe you should have said it in a different way?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I would have cause to regret it if that was all I said, Chairman, but it is not all I said, as you know. I think I have been consistent right from the outset. Firstly, I think it right that I said the very sad death of Ian Tomlinson should be investigated; they are demanding answers, they want answers and they should get answers as soon as possible. We have been and will continue to co-operate with the IPCC and we did from the outset. There are three things I have consistently said about G20, and I will come to the point you made as the third. Firstly, I have said right from the outset, from the very point that I saw those video images, that those video images were of real concern and they should be thoroughly investigated. That is what I said right from the outset and I stick by that. As I said earlier on in this session, I am the ultimate discipline authority in the Met, so it would be wrong for me to prejudge the outcome of those investigations. I am pleased to hear that Nick Hardwick when he appeared before this Committee made a very similar and I think very proper comment. That was my first point. My second point was that I recognise the widespread concerns from reports in the media and from a number of people about the tactic we used that other people call kettling. We think that is an entirely inappropriate term.

  Q334  Chairman: We will come on to that later in the questioning.

  Sir Paul Stephenson: That is my second point; it is the context of what you said I said. I think it was right and proper to ask for a review of that tactic to see if there is something better because if there is, let us look for it and compare that with other jurisdictions. I then tried to place that in the context that there were 13,000 officer days during this operation. It was a remarkable operation planned over an incredibly short period of time that would normally take years and actually the vast majority of my officers did a remarkable job. I am very comfortable sitting by that statement.

  Q335  Chairman: As you know, we have had previous witnesses and I do not know whether you have had a chance to see their testimony before the committee; Sir Hugh Orde has been before the committee; Mr Denis O'Connor has been here too. They have expressed concern. If you are giving marks out of 10 to your police force for the G20 protests, what is the rating?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: I would not give marks out of 10, Chairman. I would stick by what I have said and that is that the vast majority did a very, very fine professional job but there are some images that are concerning that must be properly investigated. If officers behaved improperly, then they should be held to account and the tactic we have used reviewed. That is what I would say.

  Q336  Chairman: You did say almost immediately after this was drawn to your attention that you felt that officers must have their identification on their lapels; people need to know exactly who they are. Is that the case?

  Sir Paul Stephenson: Form a police officer's point of view, it is a statement of the blindingly obvious. Uniformed officers should always be identifiable. Anybody who deliberately tries to get round that, then we should look for the evidence and treat them accordingly.

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