Protecting Londoners' human rights

MQT on 2017-09-14
Session date: 
September 14, 2017
Question By: 
Sian Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
Sian Berry


With increases in the number of Metropolitan Police officers armed with firearms and tasers, and the use of intrusive tactics such as spit hoods and stop and search, what steps are you taking to ensure the human rights of all Londoners are respected?


Answer for Protecting Londoners' human rights

Answer for Protecting Londoners' human rights

Answered By: 
Sian Berry

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am very clear that protecting Londoners is my first responsibility.  That includes protecting their lives but also respecting and protecting their human rights as well, and despite the rise in crime over the last few years we should not forget that London is an overwhelmingly safe city and we need to ensure it remains so. 


The MPS is a largely unarmed service and even with the increase in officers equipped with firearms and Tasers, they will certainly amount to a minority of police officers.  My desire to maintain this, and that of the Commissioner, is clear.  We both recognise that this is an essential building block of the British policing model of policing by consent.  Unfortunately, recent events such as at London Bridge, Westminster, have highlighted that on occasion we rely on the police to take extreme actions to defend the lives of innocent people.  Their courage in professionalism in responding to such threats should be acknowledged and praised. 


We should also remember that Tasers do protect life, too.  For example, in the attack at Leytonstone Tube station potential victims were protected and the suspect was Tasered and brought to justice, as happened in the case in Russell Square last year.  Furthermore, the rise in the use of knives in London has to addressed and intelligence‑led stop and search can make a real contribution to reduce the numbers of people, especially young people, being stabbed and killed.  However, I should be clear that I believe that stop and search has to be intelligence‑led and not carried out indiscriminately.  The work of the investigative and inspection agencies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the HMIC has my support.  MOPAC has, for a considerable period, also ensured the use of firearms, Tasers and intelligence‑led stop and search data is open to the public through the use of dashboards. 


For me the biggest game changer in ensuring the human rights of all people are protected is the successful rollout of 20,000 body‑worn videos across the MPS.  Human rights are best protected by openness and transparency, effective oversight and a commitment to learn from the transformation in police and public accountability. 


Sian Berry AM:  OK.  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  That is a very helpful answer.  With my supplementary questions, I do not have much time and I wanted to focus a bit more on the tactics that might most likely impact Londoners’ daily lives.  You have not mentioned them yet.


If I could take spit hoods first, when they were first announced in September last year you were concerned and you insisted on a pilot instead of an immediate rollout.  However, in July this year the police announced an extension to all the custody suites.  I asked you for some evidence on the use of them so far and there are limited numbers, but they so far suggest that black people - and black women in particular - are much more likely to be hooded.


I wanted to ask: what was your measurement of success when evaluating the pilot in relation to your initial concerns?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We have to be accurate.  At present, the number of times these hoods have been used is low.  They have been used on 11 women.  What is clear is that the MPS and MOPAC are working to oversee and gain a better understanding concerning the use of the tactic.  At present, the low numbers make drawing any conclusions about disproportionality very unwise.  The sample is simply too low.  That is why the MPS has chosen to expand the pilot.  As far as the evaluation of spit hoods is concerned, the data collected concerning the use of hoods will identify if mental health is a factor, for example.  We have to make sure we evaluate all these things before anybody can properly draw the adverse conclusions you currently are. 


Sian Berry AM:  The numbers so far are small.  They are, however, worrying.  Just to conclude, you will be monitoring what is a continued pilot very closely for clearer evidence of discrimination?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We will be monitoring them anyway.  The issue of discrimination is a point further down the road but we have to monitor them to make sure they are safe, see how they are being used and who they are being used against.  So far, again, good news.  No complaints have been made about use, which is a good sign.  The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Deputy Commissioner and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime always want to make sure that all the tools used by the police are used properly, and spit hoods is one of those that are used by the police. 


Sian Berry AM:  OK.  On Tasers now, the data we have shows they are used more against black and minority ethnic (BAME) Londoners.  I have asked in written questions about a policy of “no camera, no Taser” but your answers have not been absolutely clear, so just to ask.  At the moment, two changes are being made: the rollout of body‑worn video to police, and more Tasers and changes in the rules so that some officers can use them when they are on their own.  What I want to make sure of is that officers who are not wearing a camera will not be able to carry a Taser, so that they are never used in an unwitnessed and unaccountable way.  Can you reassure us that that will not happen?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I will reassure you and Londoners about Tasers.  Most times when an officer pulls out a Taser, they do not use them.  In 90% of the cases, they are not used.  It is important to reassure Londoners of that.  It is also important to reassure Londoners that, in relative terms, few officers carry a Taser.  In a police service of around 31,000, roughly speaking, 1,500 officers will have a Taser. 


Sian Berry AM:  More narrowly, the change to single officer use is significant.  What we want to know is just simply yes or no: will they be able to use it on their own if they are not equipped with body‑worn video?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Of the 43 police forces around the country, nearly all of them, save for the MPS, have single officer use of a Taser.  We are the only police service in the country that requires two police officers to be present.  I have been reassured that these changes are sensible and proportionate.  You will be aware we announced recently that body‑worn video will also now be used by armed officers and Taser officers. 


Sian Berry AM:  You are not answering my question.  Will body‑worn video be required for officers who are allowed to use a Taser on their own?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It depends on the circumstances. 


Sian Berry AM:  There should be a policy that just says yes or no on that. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I just say how incredibly naive your question is?  Let me tell you why.  An officer often has to make a split-second decision whether to use a Taser.  I will give you the Russell Square example.  In the Russell Square example last summer ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  It is about how they leave the office.  Are they equipped with a Taser and body‑worn video?  Can they take a Taser out if they do not have body‑worn video?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  If I can answer your question, in the Russell Square example last year, police officers got to the scene in less than six minutes.  They were faced with somebody with a knife who had killed someone with a knife and was killing officers.  That officer has to decide in a split second whether to use his Taser.  The officer decided to use his Taser.  I am not going to criticise an officer if he uses the Taser in that split second and has not turned on his body‑worn video but you are right, in general terms normally officers should be using their body‑worn video. 


Sian Berry AM:  It is whether they are wearing it when they leave the office. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Of course officers should be wearing their body‑worn video.  The question is whether they should use it. 


Sian Berry AM:  We are out of time. 


Tony Arbour AM (Deputy Chairman in the Chair):  Yes, you are out of time.