Comment: Boris has presided over a catastrophic loss of trust in the police

There are fresh demands for action to tackle stop and search in the capital
There are fresh demands for action to tackle stop and search in the capital

By Jonathan Bartley

Not long ago I returned to my home late at night to find my pregnant wife distressed and frightened. It wasn't because a crime had been committed but because our house had been raided by police. It was a mistake and as anyone would do I made a complaint.  But what the officer who dealt with it told me was alarming.  The police found that every time contact was made with ordinary Londoners, even to help victims, the public's view of the police went down.

This decline in trust has been one of the defining aspects of Boris Johnson's time as mayor. This week's decision by Theresa May to block his use of a water cannon – a decision I predicted on this website a few years back - typified his approach. As the home secretary said, the idea of the water cannon undermined the idea of policing by consent.

Boris bought weapons to use against his fellow Londoners. And not just water cannons.  He was responsible for the huge expansion of Tasers too.


He undermined confidence by diminishing the accountability and scrutiny of the Met.  The mayor became the police and crime commissioner for London in 2011, but handed over responsibility to his deputy mayor for policing and crime, swapping an imperfect system for a disastrously flawed one.  In the words of Green London Assembly member Jenny Jones: "Decisions previously taken by the Metropolitan Police Authority in full view of the public, with minutes, reports and clear agendas, transformed into cosy office chats between the deputy mayor and the Met."

Boris slashed the police budget and closed dozens of front counters.  While it has been near impossible to get proper figures on the number of police that have been lost, it has certainly gone down.  Even where police stations have been sold off and replaced, it was often with shop front services with much more limited hours and fewer officers.

He also supported the inappropriate and zealous use of stop of search, which has alienated communities, including in my home borough of Lambeth.

All this has done far more to undermine policing by consent in the capital than any misguided decision about water cannons.  

For the last few years I have served as the chair of my local safer neighbourhood ward panel, which sets the priorities for local policing.  I have seen the frustrations of local people - and those of ordinary police officers.

The next mayor must make it a priority to restore the integrity of community policing in London and have a Metropolitan Police Service that is a more accurate reflection of London. This means more female, BAME and LGBTIQ recruits, especially in senior roles.

Transparency and openness in decision making must be restored. It must become better than it ever has been. This should include regular weekly press conferences which move around London, at which the mayor and deputy mayor answer questions with proper scrutiny about decisions that are being made.

The number of wasteful stop and searches must be reduced.   And we must look at how the police can work more effectively with young people in communities right across the capital.  I want the mayor to support an expansion of the London Citizens scheme to have a 'safe haven' every hundred yards on every high street in the capital that will give young Londoners a sanctuary if they are threatened.

The police also need to be empowered to work more closely with local authorities and their outreach teams in local communities.  Much of frontline policing is taken up with low level anti-social behaviour, which has a big impact on the quality of life of Londoners, but is not always best dealt with by the Met.

We must also look at how we can introduce more restorative practices, which improve satisfaction for victims of crime, but also give the community a greater stake in what is going on with their own safety and security.

We need a mayor who will demonstrate real leadership when it comes to policing: holding the Met to account where they fail in their duties, building bridges with local communities and making policing a profession that carries the respect of both the officers and the people they serve.

Jonathan Bartley is running to be the Green party's London Mayoral candidate in 2016 .

The opinions in Politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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