Deaths in Custody (Supplementary) [2]

Session date: 
September 27, 2012
Question By: 
James Cleverly
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 


Thank you. I want to go back a couple of steps to the use of digital technology and video. There have been trials of body-worn cameras, which - on the figures I have had shared with me - indicate that they have reduced the amount of administrative time that those officers subsequently have had to get involved in, they reduce the number of complaints. What I would ask is what plans do you have in place to learn lessons from those trials and roll out body-worn cameras as widely as possible right across basically frontline policing? Stephen, I think.

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Deaths in Custody (Supplementary) [2]

Answer for Deaths in Custody (Supplementary) [2]

Answered By: 

I think we have to just take a step back because I have been briefed by people who have been Director of Resources, Anne McMeel, it was at the suggestion of an Assembly Member, it was a very useful meeting. I think my start point in having to find and deliver a balanced budget, and not just do that as an optical illusion, but something that will work to get us within a constrained financial envelope, is to recognise we spend a staggering amount of money on information technology and kit and we also employ directly, or the Metropolitan Police Service employs, 800-odd staff, and so about £103 million a year. I think we have to make some choices about how we deliver technology and applications based on what we think absolutely will produce an efficient unit, but also recognise that there are other things that we simply cannot do.

There is a cost to CCTV roll-out in what will probably be about 100-odd vans, and that sounds like that is a sensible IT investment. What you are suggesting could also be something that would ultimately improve productivity, but then you have to take the cost out somewhere else and work that out and deliver casual savings, otherwise all they become are a series of investments that add more to the costs base and widen the budget gap that has to be closed. I would like to know more about the technology and how it can be used to actually make London safer and also reduce the running costs of the Metropolitan Police Service.

James Cleverly (AM): Yes, that is a very fair point. I am thinking that, with the imminent replacement of the air wave system, there is an opportunity, and I think this will take almost a kind of a psychological shift in UK policing from what I think has historically -- I mean I want to have a conversation about this. I hear people talk about the air-wave replacement, the police radios, and that is very much still thought of as primarily a communications device. However, as we are going to be looking at replacement options, might it be possible for us to at least investigate taking a bold jump forward and having something that gives us GO tracking of where the officers are so we get a snail trail of officers on foot as well as officers in vehicles, the integration of what becomes increasingly a cheap technology, which is widely available in the commercial sector. I suppose the ultimate gutsy call is, if we are saving an awful lot of time when officers are not basically available for frontline duty - that is when they are filling in forms, when they are appearing at professional standards hearings because there is contradictory evidence about their conduct or otherwise - then actually there is a piece dividend there. We may, through the better utilisation of technology, and I appreciate there is a cost overhead, we may get to a position where we can get more policing output for a smaller human cost of policing input. I know police numbers is one of those holy grails, but if - and it is a big if - we can have a grown-up discussion about policing outputs rather than just pure policing input, there may be some big wins there.

Stephen Greenhalgh (Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime): That sounds like you have a lot of expertise about how you would wrap this to be a broader discussion about how you effectively equip the frontline police officer to be more productive and deployed more effectively and I wholly agree with you that police numbers are important. I think they are important, but equally important is the productivity, the visibility, the availability of police officers on the streets of London. The point is, it is what we can afford, and I start off with that envelope. As I understand, the Home Office give a capital grant of about £20 million to £30 million a year. Currently the Metropolitan Police Service, in terms of capital or one-off costs, is often spending in excess of £200 million, often £300 million. This goes back to having an envelope that we can afford. For me there is getting the basic running costs, basic IT infrastructure costs, to run at a level that we can afford and still maintain the operational capability that we need to keep London safe, and then look at the sort of special projects over time that can transform London policing. We have to do it in a way that we recognise we cannot have it all at once, and we have to do it within that budgetary envelope. That requires a bit of a vision and a longer-term view more than three months, six months, a year, it is two or three years, four years, about having a picture of how we want to equip the bobby on the beat for the 21st century. I think that debate, as the Commissioner has said yesterday - his anniversary - that is happening now. All of those ideas have to be brought to the table so we can have a clear idea of where we are trying to get to, even if it does not happen in three months or six months.

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police): Just to absolutely support you on that vision and view, I met with operational officers yesterday at Hounslow, and talking about the sort of equipment they have at the moment, they have an airwave radio, they have a personal digital assistant (PDA), they may have a little fingerprint reader that yet again is separate, it is not beyond the wit of all of us to say, 'Actually, bring those together, it would be far more efficient in terms of doing it'. Also, the body-worn video is an interesting thing in London. London relatively is in a different place around body-worn video than the other 42 forces in the UK where it is quite extensively used. It is very common to walk up to officers in other parts of the UK and for them to have a body-worn video on their vest or on an outer garment, and it does bring some real benefits. So we are keen about this, as the money envelope allows, and part of the work around change is very clear about using technology in a much, much smarter way. One of the real frustrations of officers at the moment, here we are in 2012 and they take a crime report, they have to go back to the police station to fill the thing in on the computer. Once we break that link and get some remote working and all that, you can free up very different ways of working. That is very much part of the vision of the change programme.

James Cleverly (AM): So there is no philosophical hurdle?

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police): Absolutely not.

James Cleverly (AM): It is more about the logistics.

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police): It is more about logistics; it is the logistics, it is reliability of some of the technology, it is now the plethora of, not free technology, but very different technology, so apps and those sorts of things. It is making use and being just a bit more open-minded and saying, 'Look, we could do this very differently if we used X or Y'.

James Cleverly (AM): Could I encourage you, this is more of a request than a question, historically the organisation has been wedded to a single technology to provide a capability. Could we look this time around at specifying the capability and thus not tying ourselves too tightly into one particular technology provider, because I cannot help but think there is a real cost saving opportunity to have a bit of market flexibility.

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police): That is where we are, part of the work around the change that is very much integrated in it. We have a group of about 100 people who just across the organisation are prepared to think quite differently and we bring them together and sort of say, 'Go on, what could the world look like?' and then put in people from the private sector in terms of technology and thinking, some of the people who are at the forefront of where technology is going as a use in the public sector. On exactly that point about saying, 'Don't start from saying it is an X type of structure and work backwards', say, 'What do we want the technology to do for the 8.2 million people of London? All right, what could it then look like?'

Onkar Sahota (AM): Just briefly, Deputy Commissioner, the cameras in the vans, will they be playing all the time or will the officers be turning them on and off?

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police): I do not know the technology of that, whether there is an on or off switch on them, I will get back to you in --

Onkar Sahota (AM): It would be very important that they play all the time, because if you depend upon the officers putting them on or off, you defeat the whole object.

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police): No, and exactly the same, having had experience of it elsewhere in the country, it is exactly the same when the stuff goes out of service, what is our instruction? If the stuff goes out of service, do you use the van or not? So absolutely no way of committing on that, so --

Onkar Sahota (AM): Thank you.