Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe: Policing London’s streets


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe looks back at his time as Met commissioner
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe looks back at his time as Met commissioner

Britain’s largest police force, London’s Metropolitan Police, has “learned a lot” from regular exchanges with their counterparts in India and Pakistan, according to retiring Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

These exchanges have included assistance on individual cases, particularly those involving terrorism, the police chief told reporters on Wednesday (January 18).

However, he pointed out that the majority of those arrested on terrorism-related charges in the UK have been “home-grown”, casting doubt on the impact of migration on public safety.

Sir Bernard said personnel exchanges have given officers in south Asia insight into how the Met maintains public order and conducts criminal investigations.

The College of Policing also provides training to senior officers in India, he added.

“People sometimes assume that we always have the answer, but we’ve also learned a lot from those countries about how they do things. And then, of course, we have individual cases and the threat of terrorism that we want to work on together.” he said.

“Foreign relations are not always straightforward, but at a practical level for police, we can often make things work.”

Sir Bernard, who has served as the Met’s commissioner since September 2011, will be stepping down from his post next month.

During his over-five-year tenure, the Met has been the target of several allegations of internal racism, from both outside of and within the organisation.

Sir Bernard said that these allegations had been “dealt with”.

He said: “We occasionally, in an organisation of 50,000 people, have grievances between colleagues and peers, but also managers and those they manage.

“There have been instances of racism, but I would argue that they are much fewer than any other organisation.”

A key priority for Sir Bernard, who took the reins of the Met just weeks after the 2011 summer riots, was to remedy the strained relationship between the police and the public, particularly ethnic minorities.

The stop and search policy was seen as a major contributor, according to him.

“The data showed that in the two years preceding [the riots], police stopped and searched 1.3 million a year,” Sir Bernard said. “That’s an awful lot of people, and it had to be a minimum because the occasional search is not recorded.

“A lot of minority families in London said they were concerned their children were getting stopped regularly when they had never been in trouble,” he added.

“My concern was that we were damaging our credibility, our link with the various communities, particularly with youth.”

Since 2011, the Met has reduced the number of stop and searches conducted by 70 per cent, while also increasing the number of arrests made as a result.

Sir Bernard said he and his team initially struggled with the £600 million of savings they were ordered to find, especially with the rising growth rate of the city.

He said: “I’m proud that over the years, while other forces decided to reduce the number of police, we managed to keep our numbers high. Here in the capital, that is absolutely necessary.”

He also warned his successor that with the Syrian civil war drawing to a close, many of the Britons who left to fight will be returning and will pose a serious security threat across Europe.

“About 12,000 people went from Europe to Syria to fight, including about 850 from the UK. About half of them returned fairly quickly, but there are still 400 to 450 out there.

“When they return, all of Europe will have to consider how we deal with that threat. They will arrive back militarised, brutalised and with people they have acted with in the past and who may be available for conspiracies in the future.”