New report from The Centre for Public Safety urges the Mayor of London and Home Secretary to give Londoners a voice in the process of selecting the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner through a series of community interviews and a ‘Question Time’-style televised candidate forum for those seeking the top job in British policing.
London Assembly members would play a key role in the process, nominating Londoners to sit on the panels. Candidates would be shortlisted based on their performance at the panels, prior to the finalists facing a televised question-and-answer forum with the public.
The process for selecting the Commissioner currently provides for no public involvement and lacks transparency. The report identifies the current Home Office Selection Panel as being made up of senior civil servants, earning an average of £188,200 while the average salary in 24 of London’s 32 boroughs is less than £28,000 and half of all Londoners live in social housing or rented accommodation.
Furthermore, the Home Office’s decision to appoint an exclusively white Selection Panel for the police chief of a city that is 40% non-white will do little to help build public trust in the next leader of the Met or in the process that selects them.
The report, ‘The Next Commissioner’, cites the example of America’s sixth largest city, which has recently adopted community interview panels and a candidate forum to help guard against public disorder following police shootings and strained community relations, such as occurred in London in 2011. The result of the panels and forum was the appointment of the City of Phoenix’s first black female police chief, Jeri Williams, in October 2016.
If the Home Secretary and Mayor of London are serious about improving relations between the community and police in the capital, then they should embrace this new strategy to give Londoners a voice in the assessment and selection of candidates seeking the £271,000-a-year role of Commissioner.
The report calls for:
- The Mayor of London to give Londoners a voice in the selection process for the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner, by organising a series of community interview panels and a public candidate forum.
- Community interview panels to grill the shortlisted candidates and to recommend finalists. The panels would be made up of 25 individuals nominated by London’s Assembly Members and 3 individuals nominated by Met officers and staff to give a voice to those who keep London safe on a daily basis.
- A televised candidate forum in which the finalists in the process would face questions from the public – similar in style to the BBC’s Question Time – and hosted by an independent moderator. The forum would also significantly strengthen media coverage of the selection and further boost public awareness and confidence in the Commissioner.
- The Home Secretary to actively encourage applications from candidates that may not meet the ‘conventions’ of having served in the Met and served as a Chief Constable in a force other than the Met, in order to maximise the pool of talented applicants.
Rory Geoghegan, Director of the Centre for Public Safety, said:
“The current process for selecting the Commissioner denies Londoners a voice. The Met is many things, but fundamentally it is the local police for 8.6 million Londoners. It is time for the process to reflect that by engaging and involving Londoners.
Our proposals for community interview panels and a televised candidate forum would – at long last – require candidates to demonstrate they have the ability to listen to Londoners, respond to Londoners and lead those officers and staff who keep London safe every day.
The riots in 2011, like the more recent and frequent scenes in the United States, demonstrate what happens when there is a lack of trust in senior police leaders and a breakdown in community relations. Making the selection process more transparent and engaging Londoners can help us avoid a repeat.
If the Mayor of London is serious about building better relations between communities and the police, he must start at the top, by exposing candidates for the top job to the concerns of Londoners from each and every community.”
Stephen Greenhalgh, who served under Boris Johnson as London’s first Deputy Mayor for Policing & Crime (2012-2016), made the following comment:
“The selection process for the Met Commissioner takes place behind closed doors currently and that needs to change. These exciting proposals from the Centre for Public Safety would signal a fresh new approach that is more transparent and involves both the public and London’s elected politicians in a meaningful way. This is important because the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is first and foremost the police chief for Londoners and not a national figurehead.”
Baroness Jones, former London Assembly Member (2000-2016), Deputy Mayor (2003-2004) and Metropolitan Police Authority member (2000-2012) remarked:
“The job of Commissioner in London is huge, both in policing terms and in its public facing role. It therefore makes sense for Londoners to have some say in the person who runs the Police Service. We need someone who understands diversity and can create a Service that reflects London's diversity. We also need someone who understands liberty and peaceful protest at the heart of Government.”
Notes to Editors:
- The recommendations are modifications to the existing process not requiring legislative action. The Home Secretary will still make the ultimate decision of who she recommends to Her Majesty for appointment. The Home Secretary would still have to take account of recommendations made by the Mayor of London, and the Selection Panel would still play an integral role in the process. The proposals provide significant and much-needed additional evidence on which to base the recommendation, while also serving to build public trust and confidence in the next Commissioner.
- Our proposals would see the community panels made up of members of the public nominated by London’s 25 Assembly Members, along with representatives of the Met’s own workforce via the Metropolitan Police Federation, Police Superintendents’ Association and PCS Union.
- The community interview panels and public candidate forums are tried and tested and formed key elements of the police chief recruitment process used in America’s sixth largest city, resulting in the selection and appointment of the City of Phoenix’s first black female police chief, Jeri Williams, in October 2016.
- The Centre for Public Safety visited the City of Phoenix in October 2016 to learn about the process directly and is happy to facilitate contact with the City of Phoenix regarding any follow-up and encourages editors to do so.
- The report is titled: The Next Commissioner: Giving Londoners a voice in the selection of their police chief and will be available at: https://www.centreforpublicsafety.com/research/reports/the-next-commissioner-giving-londoners-a-voice-in-the-selection-of-their-police-chief/
- A public petition is also operating at: https://www.change.org/p/the-mayor-of-london-give-londoners-a-voice-in-the-selection-of-their-next-commissioner
- A draft timeline for the selection of the next Commissioner incorporating our proposals can be found on page 24 of the report, with community panels held in February, followed by the public candidate forum in April, enabling final selection and appointment from May onwards.
The Centre for Public Safety seeks to support frontline professionals and to advocate for world-class policing and public safety through a focus on research, action, leadership and events. Founded in 2016 and based in the United Kingdom, the Centre looks within and beyond the shores of the British Isles in a deliberate bid to identify examples of world-class public safety.