My new report shows that, despite new initiatives, half of London’s borough police officers live outside London.
The report also reveals that, in many inner London boroughs, only a tiny number of officers actually live amongst the communities they serve every day. An average of 8 per cent of officers live in the borough that they work: just one officer in Islington, two in Kensington and Chelsea and four in Southwark.
These figures have not improved despite Met initiatives to recruit more officers who live in the capital, and the issue being raised by my predecessor as Green London Assembly Member, Jenny Jones. Since 2013, to attract more people living in London to apply the Met has removed incentives like commuting allowances and introduced residency criteria for new recruits that required applicants to have lived in London for at least 3 of the last 6 years.
Housing costs may play a part in where officers choose to live once they have been recruited, as average rents now exceeds 50 per cent of the take-home pay of a new police constable, with figures much higher in some areas.
The Camden New Journal this week also reported personal concerns raised by officers on the Met’s ‘Rumour Mill’ intranet system that focus on housing costs being a big issue. This includes comments such as: “Morale is pouring out the cracks of the MPS as officers struggle with the pressure to live in or close to their patch and the temptation to move out of London.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan’s manifesto promised to: “Promote a police force that looks like the communities it is charged with keeping safe, with the aim of having a Met that is as diverse as London’s population.”
And I think that if the police service is to have a real understanding of London’s diverse boroughs and communities, we have to recruit and retain more officers who don’t just look like the people they serve but who come from and live in our communities.
With little progress made, the Mayor, Met Commissioner and new Deputy Mayor for Policing must revisit the issue of where our police live. Promises to achieve ambitious goals for ethnic and gender balance depend on making more effective plans to recruit from within London. They should also give officers incentives to stay in London when their family circumstances and housing needs change, and I’ll be raising these issues with them in the future.