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Effective police force about more than just ‘front line’, says Assembly

1 June 2011

Public and political desire to see more police officers on the street should not be allowed to reduce the Met’s overall capability, a new London Assembly report today warns[1]

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) wants to increase the proportion of officers on operational duty[2].  However, the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee highlights the risks of moving staff from valuable support functions[3], as it could reduce the force’s overall effectiveness.

The Committee’s report, Policing in London, says there are opportunities to find efficiencies by reviewing the size and resources given to specialist units which have grown in a ‘piecemeal’ and inefficient manner in recent years [4], leading to duplication.

Currently officers fill 45 percent of operational support roles. The Committee recognises there are reasons why some posts should not be filled by civilians, such as needing additional officers for emergency situations and police officer terms and conditions, which are set at a national level. However, the report says there is scope to make savings by using more civilians in support roles.

The Committee further argues that political commitments to protect ‘front line policing’ mean very little because there is no shared understanding of what the ‘front line’ is.  Such commitments are therefore unlikely to reassure the public.

John Biggs AM, Chair of the Budget and Performance Committee, said: “Londoners need to know they are getting value for money from their police force but talk of funding cuts to such a vital service will understandably worry people. 

“Any changes will need to be based on a better understanding by all parties – including the public – of how policing works now and what needs to happen in the future. It is not just about having more visible police on our streets, but ensuring that the Met is working in a way that makes it more effective and efficient at every level of its operations.”

Other findings in the report include:

  • The public will only feel reassured that policing levels can be maintained with fewer resources if the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) set out their priorities and commitments in clearly defined terms.
  • More information needs to be made public, explaining what officers and staff across the force do, and why their roles are important.
  • The MPS’s Operational Police Measure (OPM) data[5] – a more reliable way of monitoring changes in the workforce than simply counting the number of officers – should be published.
  • The HMIC should consider devising a single model, similar to OPM analysis, that can be used to compare how all forces in England and Wales use their workforce resources.

The Committee worked closely with specialists and experts[6} in policing during its eight-month investigation and heard from the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice.   


Notes for editors:


  1. Read the report, Policing in London - A London Assembly report into the future shape of the Metropolitan Police Service
  2. See page 47 of the report for a full list of operational staff roles.
  3. See page 48 of the report for a full list of operational support staff roles.
  4. Operational support in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) – containing these specialist units - has grown from less than a fifth of the workforce in 2003 to almost a third by 2010. See page 30 of the report
  5. See page 20 of the report for more information about the OPM.
  6. For full list of specialists and experts, see page 55 of the report – these include: Robert Quick, former Assistant Commissioner at the MPS; Dr Timothy Brain, Cardiff University; and, Professor Marian FitzGerald, University of Kent.
  7. John Biggs AM, Chair of the Budget and Performance Committee, is available for interview. 
  8. The report will be considered for formal agreement at the Committee’s meeting on 9 June 2011.
  9. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For more details, please contact Lisa Moore / Julie Wheldon in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4228/4283.  For out of hours media enquiries please call 0207 983 4000 and ask for the Assembly duty press officer.  Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit, Greater London Authority, on 020 7983 4100.