Police Chief Superintendent John Sutherland: Introduction followed by
Q & A session
The chair welcomed the new borough commander, Chief Superintendent John Sutherland.
Chief Superintendent Sutherland told the meeting that he had come from Camden, but had worked in the borough in the 1990s, and that his first impression of Southwark, and of his fellow police officers, councillors, council officers and the residents, had been overwhelmingly positive. Violent crime and burglaries had gone down in the last five years, but there were challenges in terms of street crime and crime involving young people. He outlined that the Met needed to make substantial savings in the next two and a half years, about half a billion pounds, and that the biggest costs to the Met were salaries and buildings. Retaining frontline services was, however, a priority.
Responding to questions by councillors about the Kingswood base at Seeley Drive, the Chief Superintendent said that there were no plans to close this base, and that his understanding was that there would be no changes to it before 2014. The teams currently based at Seeley Drive would remain there. In 2014, there could be a review and the Met in Southwark would make the case for keeping it. The final decision, however, rested with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). As borough commander, he would be invited to comment on whether the building was economically viable and operationally necessary. He explained that there would be no point in having the building as a base, if it was not an operational base.
There was a discussion about the existing, and alternative, sites for a police station in East Dulwich, and about how these could be secured. The meeting also heard that councillors received calls from victims of crime, and that the police would have a duty to look after the victims of crime under EU and British law in future.
Responding to questions by councillors about East Dulwich police station, Chief Superintendent Sutherland said that he understood that residents wanted a reassuring presence in their area, and that the final decision about East Dulwich police station had not been taken. He welcomed the creative approaches discussed, but said that the station was economically unaffordable and operationally less essential than other buildings. There were many costs which were not immediately obvious, such as installing secure IT systems and physical security measures, which increased the running costs and fitting out of alternative buildings. The footfall at East Dulwich police station was very low, and the building was too big for the number of officers located there, compared with other locations in the borough. He went on to say that he was happy to relay the message that councillors would try to find the funding if a new site could be secured quickly. He did not want to raise expectations, as the East Dulwich police station was likely to go.
Responding to further comments by councillors, Chief Superintendent Sutherland explained that there were no moves away from ward-based policing. The new policing model would be based on neighbourhoods with ward-based teams. There would be named, identifiable officers.
The meeting heard that confidence in the police was dipping, and that it would continue to do so because of a lack of communication, and due to staffing being below the allocation levels. There was some support for the plans to use the community hospital site as a location for a new police station, and concerns were raised about the loss of front desk facilities in East Dulwich, which would lead to crime going unreported in East Dulwich ward and beyond.
Chief Superintendent Sutherland responded that there were now more ways of contacting the police than going to a police station. The police could also be contacted via the “101” number and online. There was also Operation Promote, under which any victim of any crime, could meet an officer face to face at a place of their choosing. Every borough would have at least one 24hr counter and probably two others with more limited hours.
Responding to questions from the floor, Chief Superintendent Sutherland explained that he did not have figures to hand for a cost per officer, but would be able to get these in due course. He confirmed Seeley Drive was secure both physically and in terms of IT, and went on to explain that each of the 32 borough commanders had engaged the senior stakeholders, such as MPs, chief executives and directors of councils, seeking their views on building disposals and public access. This exercise was now completed and the feedback would be presented to MOPAC before Christmas, followed by a period of public consultation in the new year, and a decision by MOPAC before the new financial year. The Met’s estate was the responsibility of MOPAC, and ultimately the Deputy Mayor for Policing.
The chair thanked Chief Superintendent Sutherland for attending.