What do we want from the next commissioner of the Metropolitan Police?
05 Nov 2008
A Policy Exchange Event
Chaired by Dean Godson, Research Director for Terrorism and Security at Policy Exchange, this seminar considered what should be the key attributes of the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in the context of the current challenges facing the capital’s policing agenda.
The Deputy Major of London for Policing, Kit Malthouse, set the scene by outlining how the new Met Commissioner needed to be someone who understood the often grey line between politics and policing. He highlighted three key points that those making the appointment should consider – an acceptance that the Met has to change; an appreciation for rigorous financial control, in the context of managing a big, complex organisation, allied with a concentration on where the money is going right down to the front line; and most importantly a focus on the day job, that is: "to put it simply, fighting crime". Malthouse talked about creating a better crime-fighting atmosphere in London. He also highlighted apparent weaknesses in what he referred to as ‘marketing’ by the Met and the new Commissioner needed to have a strong appreciation for effective communication with residents.
Agreeing with Malthouse, Peter Clarke, former head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, now Visiting Fellow at New York University and a member of the Policy Exchange Advisory Council, stressed how the quality of local policing in London was inextricably linked with the Met’s national and international roles. He warned against removing these wider strategic roles as a potential weakness that would undermine local policing and safety across London. Counter-terrorist efforts must reach down to a community level, he declared. By contrast, the FBI in the US enjoys the resources but lacks proper local connectivity. Removing the Met’s counter-terrorist responsibilities would be unwise and dangerous, he said, adding that this was not a job for someone with double L-Plates. Agreeing with Malthouse, Peter Clarke stressed a need for a proper focus on operational issues and an unwavering focus on safety.
The final speaker, the Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke MP, was critical of the recent intervention by the Mayor of London in discussions that led to the resignation of former Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. He flagged up an alternative list of key attributes, namely, and most importantly, independence and professional integrity, someone who had the personal strength of character and resilience to withstand pressure from politicians and the media. Charles Clarke agreed with a need for clearer accountabilities. The new Commissioner had to be someone committed to modernising policing in London and the former Home Secretary called for further significant reform on community policing and better partnership working. Thirdly, he added: "we need to have an outstanding police leader, in London and internationally, someone with a clarity of vision to deliver on all levels, including having sound media judgement, and competence in team-working and communication".