One of West Midlands’ top police bosses has questioned whether the mayor of London should retain control over the Metropolitan Police, after the force was put into special measures.
It comes as Sadiq Khan and the government reignited a long-running row today, with both sides pointing the finger at each other for Scotland Yard’s failures, such as the murder of Sarah Everard by serving officer Wayne Couzens and the botched investigation into serial killer Stephen Port.
Assistant West Midlands police and crime commissioner Tom McNeil told City A.M. that “there is a lazy assumption” that having metropolitan mayors as city-wide police and crime commissioners is better than having a separate person taking on the role.
Police and crime commissioners are elected officials responsible for overseeing a city’s police and fire services.
“Where the role of police and crime commissioner has been combined with the power of the mayor [this] has resulted in both the Manchester police force and now the Met police being put under special measures,” McNeil said.
“It’s a huge role if you take it seriously, so don’t water it down.”
The mayor’s office was contacted about McNeil’s comments.
London minister Paul Scully said “the combined role has worked in the past with previous mayors, but it’s clear that this mayor is just interested in pushing the blame off to anybody apart from him”.
The Met was put into special measures by the England’s police watchdog yesterday, after a litany of scandals.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said Everard’s murder and the botched Port investigation have had a “chilling effect” on public confidence, however the watchdog’s report did not hold Khan responsible.
Other recent scandals include the finding of widespread homophobia, misogyny and racism among officers at the Charing Cross police station and the imprisonment of two officers for sharing photos of a murdered woman.
The police force will now be subject to increased oversight and monitoring by the watchdog, with Scotland Yard also forced to write up a plan on how it will improve its culture.
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse said “the mayor has been asleep at the wheel” and that “he must lean in and share responsibility for a failure of governance”.
A source close to Khan hit back at Malthouse, while accusing the government of “playing politics with a serious issue to distract from its failures”.
“The truth is it’s been the mayor, not the home secretary [Priti Patel] or Kit Malthouse, who has been demonstrating leadership by holding the Met to account, demanding urgent police reform, and taking decisive action by telling the previous Met Commissioner he didn’t have confidence in her ability to make the changes on the scale required,” they said.
A Khan spokesperson said: “The mayor has managed the Met through the devastating impacts of government austerity which saw officer numbers falling below 30,000 in London and took £1bn out of the budget. In spite of this, the mayor has led the way with a plan to confront cultural and performance issues that are deeply rooted in the Met and achieved significant falls in violent crime across London by being tough on crime and the causes of crime.
“Sadiq has consistently held the Met to account and called for action to deal with the cultural and systemic issues within London’s police force. He’s been clear with Londoners about the scale of the change required, but has faced opposition from the government at every step, including when he lost confidence in the previous Met commissioner.”