Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2002
STEVENS QPM, MR
1. Good morning, Sir John, Mr Blair and Mr Luck.
As you can see, the wheel has come full circle and I am back where
I was three years ago,
(Sir John Stevens) Indeed.
Chairman: This is just a one-off session, not
part of any particular inquiry, though we will be looking at the
Police Reform Bill shortly, and no doubt some of the things you
have to say we shall take into account when we reach some conclusions
about that. Can we start with some questions about police numbers,
which I am sure is a subject dear to your heart. Mrs Prentice
is going to start the ball rolling.
2. Sir John, you are running a recruitment programme
at the moment; how is that going, what are the numbers like?
(Sir John Stevens) It is going very well
indeed. When I took over as Commissioner two years ago we had
25,450 officers in the Metropolitan Police, as distinct from seven
years prior to that, when there 28,500; and I think you will remember
that I talked about a crisis, in terms of recruiting. That has
now changed; we were, at that stage, taking in between 60 and
80 a month, we are now up to 300 a month. We have now, this year,
960 more officers than we had when I took over as Commissioner,
and we anticipate that in April this year we will be up to 1,000
extra officers, which was promised by the Home Secretary and the
Mayor. And the way recruiting is going, we are taking in 300 a
month at the moment, it is going extremely well and it is good
3. Retention then; tell me about retention?
(Sir John Stevens) We have had a massive
problem with retention. That was changed quite radically, to an
extent by the free travel, which came from the previous Home Secretary,
Mr Jack Straw, and also the increase in London pay. At the present
time, the figures for the first two months of this year are that
we have taken in 150 officers outside London, but have lost 360.
The real problem arises in our experience; we know that we are
taking in a lot of officers, which is extremely important and
we welcome that, but our level of experienced officers is declining,
and we think, in some boroughs, round about the middle of this
year, we will have probably between 30-40 per cent of probationers
in those boroughs, which is a problem, but it is a problem we
welcome because we need the extra uniforms on the street, which
everybody recognises, and I am sure everyone in this room recognises.
Where we do have a problem, and this is one of the issues that
we really welcome in the reform programme, is the business of
holding onto officers who have got 30 years' experience and more.
Someone who has got to the age of 49 or 50 and still has the appetite
for what is a very demanding job, and his health, or her health,
we must hold onto; and the part of the reform programme which
talks about rewarding people to stay on beyond their 30 years
is absolutely essential to us. Unless we hold onto our experienced
traffic officers, our firearms officers, in particular our senior
investigating officers, where we have got a particular problem,
where we had to bring people back from retirement to deal with
the problems that we had got post Lawrence, on the murder investigations,
unless we hold onto those people we are going to be in big difficulty,
in terms of experience, judgement and, at the end of the day,
4. And do you think officers would be keen to
(Sir John Stevens) Yes, I do. I believe
that a package that comes out and allows people to be rewarded
for staying on beyond the 30 years, rather than, as it is at the
moment, predicated to leave after 30 years, because that is how
the pension arrangements are organised, will be a massive help;
and, for us in London, it is essential that we hold onto this
experience, I cannot stress that more.
5. I am not going to go down the path of the
pensions, for the moment, at least, because I know what a minefield
that is. I am concerned though, for example, that, borough by
borough, can you say whether we are seeing a significant increase
in numbers, knowing that my own borough, Lewisham, has actually
lost some; so be warned that I am coming from that angle?
(Sir John Stevens) The RAF formula that
has been created, which caused a little bit of concern, means
that no-one loses; but, as these new officers come in, we have
made the promise to the Mayor, and to London really, I have made
that personal promise, that all these additional 1,000 officers
go to boroughs. Now that will gradually build up as the boroughs,
in fact, increase. When we start talking about the initiatives
which have to be taken, in terms of street crime, which you will
remember we took about three weeks ago, in terms of 500 officers
back onto the streets, driving into the initiatives in relation
to that; and we will have to increase the amount of officers we
have got on Trident, probably by 60, because of the increase in
gun crime and the so-called "black on black" shootings.
But what we must make sure, which I really have absolutely signed
up to, is that we do not reduce the amount of officers on boroughs,
come what may, we cannot afford to do that. I believe that they
went down to a minimum, below a minimum, of what was acceptable,
two years ago. So everything is predicated on the boroughs being
built up, but at the same time making sure that our centralised
squads, to deal with the drug problem, the youth problem, and
some of the things that have had a lot of publicity in the last
two to three weeks, and certainly in the last three or four days,
we deliver on that; murder, gun crime, drugs, terrorism.
6. Just let me follow up that question, on the
basis of the terrorism. Putting officers back out to deal with
street crime, which you announced about three weeks ago, how likely
is that to be a permanent issue, how much of it now is, are we
over the response to September 11?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes; there are two
sides to that question, I think. The response to September 11
will always be there, because we have actually had to have, at
the very least, 300 officers round the centre of London, in terms
of our firearm capability, and the like. This is another aspect
of the reform programme; this is very, very important to us. Officers
who are in the centre of London, patrolling, eyes and ears, if
you like, for suspect packages, and the like, one, do not like
that duty, secondly, just as importantly, if not more importantly,
I would argue, they are fully-trained police officers who should
be out on the street investigating crime and ensuring the streets
are safe, in all its aspects. Now, if we can get 300-500, or even
700, auxiliaries in the centre of London, as eyes and ears, just
as you have the security officers here, who do a superb job, they
will allow us to free up those officers back into the boroughs
and do the job which they are trained for. And you can take it
from me that officers in yellow jackets, standing on street corners,
walking up and down Whitehall, do not like it; go up and speak
to some of them. They do not like it, they are trained to do a
far more sophisticated job. So the reform programme, to us, and
we are at the leading edge of this and we have been asking for
this now, certainly I have, for about two years, since I have
been Commissioner, we need the auxiliaries and we need the flexibility
to deal with the things that we know we need to deliver for London.
7. We will come back to the auxiliaries later,
I think. Can I just turn for the moment to what the cost of policing
London has been, as a result of September 11, can you put a figure
(Sir John Stevens) Yes; and I will look
to my Financial Director in a minute. The resources needed to
police London, certainly for the first three months, we asked
for an extra £22 million. We have actually put in a request
to the Home Office in relation to the increase in the Anti-Terrorist
Branch, which will be something in the region of 420 officers,
and it has been an increase, but the actual details of it, if
I might now ask Mr Luck to deal with that.
(Mr Luck) Indeed, if I may, Chair. To 23 December,
the Met had spent £12.8 million on the various operations
post September 11, and indeed we have been granted £22 million
to see us through to the end of this financial year. And, as the
Commissioner has said, there is a bid in with the Home Office,
and we had been hoping to hear something in March, I gather now,
the Chancellor's announcement, that is delayed until the middle
of April, which might give us a small problem in bridging between
the end of this financial year and really what needs perhaps to
be permanent funding of some sort of arrangement year on year.
8. You have answered, more or less, the other
question I was going to ask about. So you are waiting for the
Budget, to see whether that isand you have now put in a
(Mr Luck) We have, indeed, and we expect
to hear something, although we have been given no indication,
9. Can I just move on, again on numbers and officers.
You have been running a campaign to recruit more Special Constables.
(Sir John Stevens) Yes.
10. How is that going?
(Sir John Stevens) Very well. We have
had a very successful campaign. We had a target of having 960,
if I remember the exact figure, round about 960, this year, we
are slightly below that, but it has been very successful. Where
it has been extremely successful is in the recruitment of ethnic
minorities, and we have got something like 40 per cent joining
now, the Special Constabulary at the moment is 30 per cent ethnic
minorities, but the people joining are about 40 per cent, which
is very interesting. We have got now, in recruiting, 11-12 per
cent coming into the training school, ethnic minorities, and we
all know we need more of those; and we will certainly meet our
target of 5 per cent at the end of the year, which is still pitifully
small. So I think special constables are extremely important,
not just in terms of what they do on the street but allowing people
perhaps just to feel the water about what the Police Service is
like. Now, in addition to that, to specials, we have got some
volunteer cadets, which are 490, at the moment, we are trying
to increase those, and our research has shown that, anyone who
stays in there for at least a year, 50 per cent of those will
come and join the regular force.
11. Fifty per cent of the volunteer cadets?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes.
12. What ages are they; are they youngsters?
(Sir John Stevens) Yes, they are youngsters,
they are up to the age of 18 and 19, and, of those, 40 per cent
are ethnic minorities; so it is very interesting and very encouraging.
But the specials are doing a superb job, and we need more of them.
13. What percentage, do you know, of the specials
ever become regular officers?
(Sir John Stevens) I do not know exactly,
but it is something approaching between 20 and 40 per cent of
people who join the specials; again, they come and see what the
regular force is. I think, with the specials, we want to be absolutely
sure that, yes, it is a way of joining the force, but what we
are looking for is this additional expertise that specials bring,
so we have solicitors, accountants, we do not have too many MPs,
I have to say.
14. Is there a role for MPs as a special constable?
(Sir John Stevens) Absolutely, I will
sign you up now. What we are looking for is this extra experience,
which helps us to get on with the job we are doing. And I think
the Special Constabulary is something we have really got to encourage
people to come in and join, as we must encourage them to join
the regular force.
15. How much time do specials spend then?
(Sir John Stevens) It varies. There are
some specials, one or two who were commended recently, who spend
hundreds of hours a year, where there are others who do not do
so much; but we have a minimum number of hours which we ask people
to do a month. But some specials do an immense amount of work,
and it is incredible what effort they put into it, bearing in
mind, of course, they do not get paid, at the moment.
16. Just turning now to my final questions. We
have heard quite a lot recently about public service reform, and
you have touched on it yourself, in your opening remarks. Are
we spending too much time talking about absolute numbers in the
Police, and should we not be thinking more about whether, in fact,
that deters you from doing some of the more innovative stuff that
you would want to do? Or, indeed, for example, you have not mentioned
civilians within the police force?
(Sir John Stevens) I think it is a very
complex question. There is no doubt about it, unless you have
actually got the numbers on the streets, unless you have got that
police presence in a blue uniform then people will not feel reassured.
I do believe that the number that we went down to, two years ago,
was far too low, in terms of a policing presence on the streets
of London, and publicly said so, and steps were taken by Government
to ensure that that was rectified, and we are now getting the
benefits of all of that. But I think there has to be a balance
between what we do in terms of patrolling, as distinct from what
we do in terms of our intelligence-gathering in some of our more
specialised squads, and Trident and some of the work that we are
doing on the Murder Squads now is a typical example of that. One
of our problems at the moment is also the recruiting of essential
support staff, the civilian side of things, in terms of the Metropolitan
Police, and we are short in that respect. But the Metropolitan
Police Authority have agreed to pay people more, so that we can
get a better quality of staff, and I believe we can do better,
if we pay them more probably than they are getting now; they are
at the very, very low end of what should be paid in the public
sector, the lowest paid of anyone in London, I think the research
showed. So it is a mixture of things. But we must remember that
technology will help us do the job, as well as having that uniformed
presence on the street, which everybody wants; and you will know,
from your own constituency, that people want to see police officers
on the street, and so do I.
17. And, indeed, so does my borough commander,
who does not want to have his officers in the control room, conducting
things from the centre, when you could have civilians in there,
(Sir John Stevens) I totally agree with
that. One of the biggest problems has been, and in this position,
like all our positions, you have to make some very difficult decisions,
and you have to live with those, the business of terrorism, where,
in the initial month, or so, everybody was extremely nervous,
not least of which Canary Wharf and other places, where we just
had to get our policing presence in the centre of London. Now
that had a tremendous knock-on effect on the boroughs, as you
will know; now we are trying to get that sorted out. And, again,
going back to the reform programme, the auxiliaries will help
on that, provided they are part of the extended police family
and come under the control, I think, of the Police Service.
18. Can I just check, Sir John, the starting
pay of a constable now is, what, £23,800; what was it five
years ago, "ish?
(Sir John Stevens) I could tell you what
it was 40 years ago, Chairman.
(Mr Blair) I think, surely, the main difference has
been the grant last year of an additional £3,200 to officers
who were, we describe as, post the Sheehy settlement; that is
the big difference. There is a £6,000 pay lead in London
now, in comparison with all forces, and about £4,500 in comparison
with the ring of forces around London.
19. I see. So that has helped you solve the recruitment
(Sir John Stevens) I think, in addition,
Chairman, if I may, which has also helped us solve it, is, in
fact, the free travel for 70 miles outside London. And I think
one of the reasons we are now picking up officers from outside
London, which we never really did to any extent before, is that.