The Metropolitan Police Service has announced changes to the way local policing is delivered in London through the introduction of Basic Command Units (BCUs).
A BCU is a larger police command unit which will replace the Met’s current 32 borough model, by merging local policing in boroughs to form 12 BCUs.
In the current model, boroughs vary in size, have different ways of doing things and have different resources and issues. This can mean that demand is difficult to manage and our flexibility to meet new policing challenges is limited.
BCUs will each deliver the same core local policing functions – neighbourhoods, emergency response, CID and safeguarding – in a more consistent way. Each BCU will be led by a chief superintendent who will be the BCU Commander.
On a BCU, people, buildings and resources will be shared across the borough boundaries meaning greater flexibility in how these are used. The change will allow us to improve the service we provide to London in several ways as well as investing resources to address key priorities.
It remains the case that the Met continues to face a significant financial challenge, alongside increasing demand, and must make savings of £325 million by 2021/22. Our police officer numbers are expected to fall to 30,000 by April, and further by 2021.
We need to plan for a future with less, and become more resilient so we can continue to meet our financial and operational challenges, and our current and future policing challenges – terrorism and safeguarding in particular. Without significant changes in how we manage our resources we would be unable to meet these head on.
As well as saving money and increasing efficiency, we want to invest in other areas of policing which the new model will enable us to do more effectively.
Increasing community confidence is a priority and these changes will build on the success of Safer Neighbourhoods, where local officers are visible in each London ward.
We have met our commitment to put two Dedicated Ward Officers (DWOs) and one PCSO in every London ward. These officers work with local people on local priorities and are not taken away to help with policing elsewhere in London.
In BCUs there will also be more police officers working with young people, educational establishments and care homes. We will bring the management of issues such as anti-social behaviour and licensing into one team so we are working more closely with local authorities and our other partners.
We are changing the way we help safeguard vulnerable people by investing more resources in preventing and investigating domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse.
We will introduce ‘multi-agency hubs’ where police officers and child safeguarding professionals from other organisations will sit side-by-side. This means all safeguarding referrals about children will be made through the same team, improving our joint working and information sharing to protect London’s most vulnerable children.
Through BCU safeguarding teams we are increasing our work to prevent harm coming to those with mental health issues or those who go missing, alongside the management of offenders, especially those who pose the highest risk.
BCUs will also bring together the investigation of these crimes and deploy specialist officers and detectives directly to the scene of serious incidents at an earlier stage. This means they can set the investigation strategy early on and make contact with the victim, reducing the number of different officers they have to deal with.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND CID
With calls to 999 and 101 on the rise, the new BCU structure will see more officers responding to emergency calls across borough boundaries to fit with local needs and help those people who need us the most.
Response officers will also be trained to investigate some of the crimes they attend rather than passing them onto other officers. This will provide a better service to victims and allow CID colleagues to concentrate on more serious crimes and proactive work.
We will continue to deal with a greater proportion of crime online or over the telephone, to give the public greater choice about how they contact us and reduce demand on response officers.
TESTING THE MODEL
The BCU model has been tested in two areas since January 2017, bringing together Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering boroughs; and Camden and Islington boroughs.
These two pathfinders allowed us to see in action the benefits of the BCU model as well as identifying and dealing with any problems. We have closely worked with officers, staff and partner agencies, including leaders of local councils, to identify the key lessons learnt. All these views have helped shape our decision to move forward with the BCU plan.
Leading the work is Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons. He said: “Local policing is at the heart of what the Met does every day, and we will improve it further by offering a service that is more personal and responsive to the needs of Londoners.
“BCUs will allow us to put first victims of crime and those people who need us the most. Our new structure will also give us the resilience and consistency we need across the whole of London, so we can continue to respond to large scale incidents and meet the financial and operational challenges we are facing.”
The roll-out across London will be staggered over the next 12 months following the decision.
The first of the boroughs to come together will be Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow; and Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Wandsworth.
The 12 Basic Command Units (BCUs) are:
Bromley, Croydon, Sutton
Bexley, Greenwich, Lewisham
Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster,
Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Wandsworth
Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge
Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow
Hackney, Tower Hamlets
Barnet, Brent, Harrow
Newham, Waltham Forest
(Source: Metropolitan Police press release)
…..AND WHAT THE COUNCILS ARE SAYING:
BROMLEY: The decision to merge the Metropolitan Police basic command units of Bromley with the boroughs of Croydon and Sutton is wrong, with the council’s views already expressed to the deputy mayor for policing and crime prior to Christmas.
Cllr Kate Lymer, executive councillor for public protection and safety said: “We are seriously concerned that Bromley may be left without adequate police resources as a direct result of this merger.
“We understand the need for efficiency savings and whereas the merging of command units might theoretically work in central London, where the size of areas are smaller and more manageable, this logic does not apply in Bromley’s situation.
“We know that the Metropolitan Police did learn lessons in pilot areas where response times dropped drastically but our concerns remain.
“We will fight this decision – we have valued the positive relationship with the Bromley police command team and the reductions in crime that have been achieved.
“Crime and the fear of crime are big issues for residents and the focus of the Metropolitan Police will inevitably drift away from Bromley, with all the negative consequences this brings.
“I welcome the deputy mayor’s commitment to meet and discuss these very grave concerns where I will also seek reassurance that the safety of Bromley residents is given priority.”
CROYDON: Cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, Cllr Hamida Ali, said: “Whilst we believe Croydon is best served by a stand-alone borough commander and borough command unit, we recognise the pressure the Met are under in terms of budget cuts and will do all we can to ensure the new proposals are a success.”
Council leader Cllr Tony Newman, added: “As the council leader my priority is the safety of all our residents so we will continue to work with the borough commander Jeff Boothe to ensure as these changes are implemented there is no detrimental impact on Croydon.”
LEWISHAM: Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham said: “I am pleased that the police will be listening to us before any changes are introduced in Lewisham.
“Following mergers in other parts of London there are concerns which need to be addressed to ensure we get the best deal for Lewisham residents who want to see a highly visible police presence on our streets.
“The number of police officers in London is under huge pressure because of government funding cuts – it’s time for those cuts to be reversed.’