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Detective Shortage

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

The latest HMICFRS report stated that the Met should ‘continue to seek to increase the capacity and capability of qualified detectives and senior investigating officers to improve the quality of its investigations’. What impact has the shortage of detectives had on the force, and how are you and the Met working to resolve this?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you for raising this important subject.  Investigating and solving crimes is vital to bringing perpetrators to justice and keeping the public safe. Police numbers and, inevitably by extension, Detectives, have been under tremendous pressure in recent years due to Government cuts. It is of course much harder to solve crimes with fewer officers in place and it is only now, thanks to our investment from City Hall, that officer numbers are recovering and bringing much‑needed relief to Detectives and officers in general. It is important to be clear that a shortage of investigative capacity and Detectives is a national issue that all forces are struggling to address.

The MPS has been working extremely hard to increase its investigative capacity. In 2018, the MPS established the ground‑breaking direct entry pathway for Detectives. This enables members of the public to apply directly to be a Detective without being a regular Police Constable first, broadening the appeal of this specialised role and improving diversity. In May 2016, the vacancy rate for Detectives was 11.5%. As of the end of last year, there were 6,811 Detectives and the vacancy rate has now fallen to 3.4%.

Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. With the announcement of extra officers for the force, surely this is now the chance to upskill existing police officers into Detective‑level posts to deal with some of the gaps in investigative capacity that have been highlighted by the Inspector’s report and by the MPS itself. Of course, we welcome the new officers, but we have existing officers who surely can be upskilled.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

That is a really important point. Thanks for raising that point.

Yes, there are two points there. One is that we are getting new officers joining, junior officers, and they need proper supervision. We cannot have a police service that is just made up of new and inexperienced officers.

Secondly, it gives a chance for those officers who are doing the jobs that these new officers will do to then be skilled up to do more investigations and become Detectives. That is what the MPS is endeavouring to do and is giving them the support to do just that.

Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor, but what worries me is that we can have this upskilling of officers and also the new officers, but we cannot buy experience, which takes time. The police watchdog, amongst others, has commented upon the lack of experience and quality in the MPS’s investigative teams. How does the MPS ensure that its Detective‑level officers have the necessary skillsets to undertake complex investigations?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes. Thanks for raising this point. This is one of concerns that the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner have. One of the challenges we have is that officers, when they have done a certain number of years’ service, retire even though they could carry on working because of how the pension arrangements work. It is a real loss to the MPS.

What we have tried to do is to bring them back as civilian staff. They still have lots of experience as former officers, but they are civilians and they are helping officers do the investigation work. Also, we are making sure that police officers are upskilled in relation to the skills they have in relation to responding to complaints of crime.

We are using all the tools in the toolkit, but I am always happy to hear any ideas people have to make sure we get more experience in the MPS. It was a point raised by Assembly Member Hall in the Budget and Performance Committee. It is a real live issue and we have to think outside the box about how to keep the experience in the MPS.

Photo of Unmesh Desai Unmesh Desai Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. Thank you for keeping an open mind. Also, I welcome, and all Londoners of goodwill will welcome, your trip to Auschwitz. Can I commend you for all the work you are doing to combat the scourge of anti‑Semitism in our capital? Thank you.