Improving transparency and accountability in policing

Plenary on 2017-07-06
Session date: 
July 6, 2017
Question By: 
Siân Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What steps will you take to improve transparency and create a more accountable Metropolitan Police Service?


Answer for Improving transparency and accountability in policing

Answer for Improving transparency and accountability in policing

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chair.  I published a comprehensive Police and Crime Plan that sets out my ambitions for the safety of London.  As part of this process, engagement and consultation was vital to understand the issues that matter to Londoners and key partners, and in agreeing the framework through which I will oversee performance and London and drive best practice and improvement in the MPS.  The Commissioner has also published the MPS’s business plan, which sets out the priorities of the MPS, marking its delivery and transformation plans for the coming year.  The Commissioner and I share a determination to lead the way in terms of openness and transparency and I expect all agencies I work with to do the same as far as possible.  Without transparency, we cannot expect to hold others to account or receive the trust of London’s diverse communities. 


We have already published comprehensive performance and financial information but I want to go further.  That is why I am asking the MPS to publish quarterly budget and performance information, which they have never done before, and for these to be made publicly available 35 days after the quarter ends, which has never been done before, so that London can see how they work and deliver for them.  To provide up‑to‑date data to the public, I will also be publishing new performance dashboards that show progress against the Police and Crime Plan.  I will include the voice of the community more than ever before.  It is this openness with the community that is the key to real neighbourhood policing.  That is one of the reasons why I have guaranteed there will be two dedicated police officers per London ward by the end of 2017. 


Both the Commissioner and I are committed to making the police more representative.  I firmly believe this makes them more accountable to London’s diverse communities.  For the first time in the MPS’s history we now have more than 4,000 black and minority ethnic (BAME) officers but there is clearly more to do on this issue and there is more we intend to do to increase the MPS’s diversity.


I am confident the MPS is taking the right steps in regard to technological change.  Let us not forget that innovations like body‑worn video will help to make police interaction with members of the public much more transparent and accountable.  The evidence shows that it gives both the public and the police more confidence and directly leads to fewer complaints against police officers. 


I am also thankful and wish to pay tribute to the hundreds of volunteers across London who put time in as independent custody visitors, Safer Neighbourhood Panel and Board members and information advice groups.  This work really does allow for independent oversight of the police on behalf of Londoners.  Accountability is also a key role for my new Victims Commissioner for London, Claire Waxman.  Accountability to the public from the police is right and just.  MOPAC is developing an oversight framework to ensure a greater degree of transparency and integrity in complaint management and ultimately to increase the public confidence in the MPS to deal with complaints fairly and efficiently. 


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  If I could direct some follow‑up questions to the Deputy Commissioner, I particularly wanted to ask about communication and transparency after major incidents.  I have noticed that after the Westminster attack, the London Bridge attack particularly and Finsbury Park, the MPS’s communication has been a lot better than in the past.  I am afraid as a campaigner and a politician I had developed a rule of thumb over the years of, “Whatever the police say after a major incident, particularly where they might have been in contact with somebody who has been harmed, is unlikely to be the true story,” but with these incidents the police were very careful and very considered in what they put out, there was lots of information and regular statements, and social media was used.  Is this a new policy?  Is this how we can expect all kinds of incidents to be dealt with in the future?


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Short answer: hopefully, yes.  We have learnt, particularly around social media.  You may have seen some of figures.  We are now up to 1 million followers, normal, on our Twitter account and about 2 million across all of our accounts.  We are very clear that as important as how you respond to the incident is, how you communicate ‑ what you tell communities, what you tell London, what you tell this great global city and, to some effect, the world ‑ is as important.  We have done a lot of work with both our internal teams and also with colleagues in the media as well, what I would call new media and traditional media, broadcast media, talking about what you can expect and when you can expect things.  You know, and I know you are an advocate of it, that particularly with social media and fast‑moving communications, the old‑fashioned idea of a news cycle has almost gone.  You have to be really clear and careful with your language. 


As the Mayor said, we have learnt from colleagues around the world post‑Paris, post‑Nice, post other events in Europe and elsewhere.  A lot of the work that we did is being very clear about the guidance and advice you are giving the public.  With “run, hide, tell” and those sorts of messages, we did a lot of work and preparation before we started to use those. 


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you very much.  I also want to ask about some of the criticism there has been about the lack of a realistic estimate of the deaths that have occurred at Grenfell.  I understand the police are in control of that estimate and I completely understand why the community ‑ there is a lot of pain there ‑ are crying out for a better number.  Is there anything you can tell me about why that number has stayed so low and why you cannot make a better estimate?


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  I am not working on that investigation and so I will be a bit careful for obvious reasons about what I say.  Without wanting to go into too much of the difficult detail, this is quite a painstaking task in terms of working through.  As you know from what colleagues have said, in some premises or addresses they have found no one.  That does not mean there was no one there.  They just have no records.  We have talked about the issues around sublets and a variety of things.  This is quite a complex picture. 


The command team are absolutely clear about getting there but getting there with the right number.  One of the challenges of any of us who have been around these high‑profile incidents, if you think back in our history, is that when we have talked about it and got the numbers wrong it has been a bigger challenge the other way, ie saying more people died than did.  I absolutely understand that is terribly frustrating for families and victims.  We are moving with the coroner as fast as we can to complete that process. 


Sian Berry AM:  You talked about previous incidents.  I have had it put to me by people on the ground there that if there had been a plane crash there would have been a number, even with a complex crime scene.


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  It is really important if you use that as a comparison ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  I am not using that as a comparison.  I am about to move on to a different one, if that is OK. I am not trying to say it is like a plane crash.    



Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  There is a manifest and so you can do it. 


Sian Berry AM:  Can we just park that?  That is absolutely true.  The most similar incident I can think of in London is the Marchioness disaster.  That pleasure boat sank late at night and it was unknown how many people might have been on it.  People joined the party or left the party.  It was an ongoing, complex situation.  The families there had to wait more than ten years for a proper inquiry but I looked at the reports in the news and on breakfast television just a few hours later.  The police were making estimates based on the number of people believed to be on the boat and the number of people they knew to have survived.  This is the methodology that has been proposed for this. 


I would like to put this question to the Mayor, actually.  With the police estimate I understand that there are difficulties but as the head of the Greater London Authority (GLA), as many of the GLA group organisations have information relating to this, would it be possible for you to convene maybe the families, the Red Cross, the police and the fire service and work with the families to agree a mutually agreed GLA interim estimate?  That is possible and that it would help a lot of people. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Look, Chair, through you, as somebody whose boss was involved in the Marchioness river disaster, I am not sure if that is the best example of best practice.  What I will say is this.  At the last taskforce meeting that I attended, the point I made to Martin Hewitt [Assistant Commissioner, MPS], who is the senior officer working with Stuart Cundy [Commander, MPS] is that residents there just do not believe anything people in positions of power and influence say. 


Sian Berry AM:  I will be honest.  They might trust you. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  If I can just answer the question, the point I made to the police was that there are very good reasons why the coroner has a legal requirement to be precise with the number of the dead and their identity.  The number currently is 80.  Those identified, around 19.  The number of flats there is 129.  Twenty‑three flats have no surviving member.  Using the information, for 109 flats we have some figure, for 23 flats nobody at all.  That is why I have impressed upon the Government the need to reassure those who are worried about immigration status and those who are worried about subletting properties that no action will be taken against them. 


What I said to the police was, “Look, I understand why the coroner has to be precise but can we not, using telephone logs, using Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) information, using missing persons posters, say, ‘These numbers are those who are missing, presumed dead; caveat: we have to wait and see what happens’?”  There is 15 tons of debris on each floor.  It is distressing for those families, bereaved families.  The police are looking into whether they can provide more information based on the caveat of it being an imprecise figure.  The police are doing their best. 


I will tell you this, though.  There are 250 officers working on a daily basis.  We provided expertise for the tsunami, for 9/11, and we have experts from there helping us.  I see no evidence of the police trying to hold things back, colluding in a conspiracy or not wishing to give information.  You are right, these families are distressed.  The local communities are distressed.  Residents are sorrowful, sad, grieving, traumatised and angry.  I will be back there again tomorrow ‑ I have been there most days since the fire ‑ and I will do what I can, that is the promise I made, even when the cameras leave, to be the champion advocate and fight for that community.


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you.  People do just want their people to be counted.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I understand.  I understand that.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Can I, on behalf of the Assembly Mayors, thank the Mayor and the Deputy Commissioner for attending here today and for answering the Assembly’s questions?  Thank you very much.  


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Thank you very much indeed.