A shift with the Met
The best way to get into how any organisation really works is to look close up right under the bonnet. I have frequently done this in business and last night I did so with the Met, by joining a shift in a fast response car in West London.
The level of professionalism of the team who kindly looked after me was extraordinary. Calm, measured and very experienced. Able to deal with a wide range of situations thrown at them.
The briefing to all officers at the start of the shift was brisk, no nonsense stuff. Dozens of pens jotting down notes on small paper pads from the PowerPoint slide show.
Then it is all out, on the road. The first call is three minutes later, to a care home for mentally ill patients where a resident was in a level of distress beyond what the staff could cope with. The police officers' time and calm words, with reassurance and thought ensured a peaceful resolution. Then within minutes of being back in the car, straight onto another care home to help deal with a developing situation.
Just a few minutes later, it was on to our third fast run, this time to a domestic violence incident. Careful, patient, but firm advice to one of the couple who promised to leave sorted the matter, but highlighted unnecessary blockages in procedure. Two more runs, chasing a stolen car and to help a very distressed robbery victim took up a fair part of the shift. Then inevitably the paperwork for an hour or so in the latter part of the shift.
I was listening, questioning and learning all the time. I found dedicated caring professionals in an organisation full of smallish / medium level irritations and inefficiencies which consume time and productivity. And that’s before mentioning the old IT being constantly plastered over, rather than undergoing full scale simplification and modernisation. If a politician tells you the new technology is great, ask them if they have seen it at work. Slow, clunky, no spare parts and discontinued is my impression. How many large private sector organisations still have 25 year old legacy systems with more patches than a bicycle repair shop?
The cumulative effect of these operational issues is very significant. Every organisation says it needs more money. However before the Met can persuade the taxpayer it needs extra funding, it should bring in more efficient procedures, managers must trust officers on the ground more, and finally it needs 21st century IT. This would free up thousands of officers across London.
This all requires confident businesslike leadership and strong political support for the officers on the ground. That means a businesslike Mayor, who knows how to lead from the front and make things happen.