Sunday, November 25

The Failure of the Met (MPS)

Sir Ian Blair the Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) held on to his job on Thursday only because of support of Labour Party members on the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). Members of the Authority voted 15-7 against the motion of no confidence in the Commissioner which had been tabled by Conservative members and supported by Liberal Democrats. The vote was taken in the wake of the Stockwell shooting trial at which Scotland Yard was found guilty of serious failings under the Health and Safety Act in the operation that led to the death of the innocent Jean Charles de Menezes.

Bob Neill, a Conservative supporter of the no confidence motion, said, quite rightly, the failures in Stockwell had been "so grave and so catastrophic" that Sir Ian should step down. Lord Tope, a Liberal Democrat, said that Sir Ian should follow the example of Paul Gray, who stood down as head of HM Revenue & Customs this week after the loss of the child benefit database by his staff.

A separate report presented to the MPA revealed that the cost to the Met of defending the Stockwell case was £600,000, bringing its total bill for the trial – including a £175,000 fine and prosecution costs – to more than £1.1 million. So as a result there is even less money to fight crime efficiently in London than at the start of the fiasco, what a paradox.

The authority was also told that an amazing £4.7 million of expenditure by Senior Metropolitan Police Officers on corporate charge cards was not 'properly' accounted for. A quarter of that money was made up of cash withdrawals, usually by officers on assignment overseas. What a disgrace.

In support of Sir Ian, Richard Summary, a magistrate member of the authority, said: "This is about more than Stockwell; people are out to get the Commissioner." Well actually he is quite correct it is about a lot more than the killing of Mr de Menezes, the cover up and the deliberate misleading of the media by some senior officers in the Met in the days immediately afterwards. As horrific and as serious a failing of systems and duty the vote of no confidence in Sir Ian Blair as head of the Metropolitan Police Service and the UK's most senior Police Officer it is also about the failure of a Police force (or Police Service as it is now misnamed).

The Magistrate's comments begs the question, what would Richard Summary's response be if an otherwise law abiding motorist were to speak out in his court in defense of a charge of being caught driving at a few miles an hour over the prescribed limit by a gatso roadside tax collecting camera: Imagine the defense by a hapless motorist '' This is more than about speeding your Worship. People are out to get the motorist'' An extra fine and penalty points would no doubt be the reaction rather than a vote of confidence from the Bench!

Anyway to return to the point of this posting. Most criminals in London no longer regard arrest, let alone imprisonment as an occupational hazard. The Met only sends a policeman to the scene of a burglary if the intruder is present. Of the 97,000 burglaries that were reported in the capital in the accounting period 2006-7 64,000 were not investigated. So, in effect Londoners need now only dial 999 if they can persuade the burglar to wait the arrival of the Police! Indeed of all the offences reported in London during this period the police did not even carry out a cursory investigation into 53 per cent of them.

At the present time less that 6 per cent of Mets 30,000 plus officers are dedicated to local policing, compared with over 31 per cent in North Yorkshire and over 30 per cent in Essex. Petty crime in London is flourishing due to the Met's incompetent management.

Whilst considering statistics it is worth noting that the Audit Commission noted that the quality of the Mets sats have been downgraded to only 'fair', the penultimate of four grades. So even at compiling statistics to show that its performance in just about every aspect of its work getting worse - the Metropolitan Police Service is failing.

For any of the reasons stated Sir Ian Blair as head of the dysfunctional, fragmented and increasingly unaccountable organisation should be sacked. However, he remains in post because he has the political support of the Labour party, not his own officers, not the media and most importantly not the public.

Sir Robert Peel the great Statesman who founded the force in the 19th century (remember not so long ago when it was a force not a service) once said: ''The Police are the public and the public are the Police.'' The sentiment is as true now as it was then - without the willing co-operation of the public the Police cannot function efficiently. The Met are losing the confidence of the public hence they are losing the ability to function efficiently. The arrogant Sir Ian Blair and the members of the Labour party who are keeping him in office - but not in power - have forgotten that principle; in consequence it can only get better for criminals in our Capital City.



Finally, a year and ten months it was first formally finished, we receive the IPCC investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes (PDF). What once would have been explosive and damning reading has been rendered, both by the leaks and the trial of the Met under health and safety legislation, into something almost familiar. It documents failures at all levels, from the officers conducting the surveillance on the morning all the way up to "Sir" Ian Blair himself. .

One of the IPCC recommendations is that there should have been a public debate prior to the implementation of the shoot to kill policy-Kratos- but that it wasn't thought necessary, or even worthy of discussion in parliament is an indictment of the secretive way of which the police continue to operate.
Even though Kratos was not in actual operation, de Menezes' fate may well have been sealed by the briefing delivered to the firearms 'officers' at Nightingale Lane police station'. The individuals involved in the bombings were described as being "deadly and determined" and "up for it" (section 11.11); never was it mentioned that they might encounter those who were entirely innocent in the course of the day. The two officers who shot de Menezes, referred to as "Charlie 2" and "Charlie 12" in the report both said how they believed it was very likely that they would be asked to "intercept deadly and determined terrorist suicide bombers," in the words of Charlie 2 (section 18.21).

The report asked the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether the actions of of Charlie 2 and 12 amounted to murder, given their justification for shooting de Menezes (section 20.74). They decided against.
Commander (now DAC) Cressida Dick's abject failure to properly either know what was being sent to Room 1600 from the CO12 team, or to make clear to the SO19 team that she wanted de Menezes arrested and not shot, something she failed to make significantly clear, was of no help.

One witness from within Room 1600, at Scotland Yard, - as had been leaked - claims that Dick added "at all costs" (section 12.36). Whether, if true, it would have made any difference we'll never know. The report does possibly help clear up some of the initial eyewitness reports given to the media which were so horribly wrong. Many of the witnesses mistook "Ivor", the officer first on the scene and who grabbed hold of de Menezes for an Asian man, and with him also being thrown and a gun pointed at him, he could have easily been mistaken for the man who was shot.
There are a few minor points in the report that are interesting or indicative of what already was happening on the scene in the aftermath; the pathologist who was on the scene by 13:33 on the 22nd of July was apparently briefed that de Menezes had vaulted the ticket barrier (section 14.16) and ran down the stairs before being shot after tripping, and included those "facts" in his report. It also notes how officers took statements from some of the witnesses inside nearby pubs while music was playing and with the news of what happened on the TV.
One of the witnesses described how an officer tried to influence her statement (section 14.8):
“You have to be careful what you say in this sort of situation, or it will be just one more copper with a family losing his job or worse”.
It also shows how the firearm 'officers' were allowed to draw up their statements on what happened together and come to a general consensus, whereas the witnesses were denied any opportunity to do just that.
The IPCC report really ought to have marked the end of Sir Ian Blair's term as head of the Met. The most damning condemnation is really reserved for him. The IPCC was not allowed any access to Stockwell tube station until the Monday, following Blair's order that the IPCC should be refused access, sent to the Home Office within an hour of the shooting. If we are to believe that Sir Ian Blair didn't know until the following morning that an innocent man was shot, it can't even be said he was trying to instigate a cover-up; he was simply opposed to the IPCC doing the job they was set up to do.
Nick Hardwick, in his statement on the issuing of the report, made clear that the delay in the IPCC being able to investigate led directly to much of the "difficulty" that has faced the Met since then. The fact alone that Sir Ian Blair worsened the situation that the police has faced since the tragic death of de Menezes is reason alone for the Commisioner's resignation or sacking.

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