City London Assembly Member Unmesh Desai AM raised the issue of detective shortages with Sadiq Khan at the Mayor’s Question Time meeting at City Hall.
Mr Desai’s question comes in the wake of concerns expressed towards the investigative capacity of the Metropolitan Police when it comes to serious and complex crimes, after a decade of cuts to the force’s budget.
Mr Desai said that “he was pleased” to hear from the Mayor that the Met “were making progress on reducing the detective vacancy rate”.
The latest available Metropolitan Police figures indicate that as of May 2019, the force had 4,651 Detective Constables with 232 vacancies.
This deficit reflects the national picture, with the most recent data obtained through freedom of information requests by The Guardian showing a 28% fall in the number of detectives serving in major crime and murder squads in England and Wales between 2010-11 and 2017-18.
The 2018/2019 PEEL Spotlight Report published by the emergency services inspectorate, HMICFRS, also observes a national trend of forces being unable to adequately deal with higher volume crimes such as assaults and theft due to a lack of detective capacity.
In response to Mr Desai’s question Mr Khan also highlighted the national scale of this issue.
However, he underlined the measures that the Met are taking to address the shortages, such as its Direct Entry Detective Recruitment Pathway scheme launched in May 2017.
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The first year of the programme saw the recruitment of a total of 224 new detectives to the force, 116 of these were women.
The Mayor also confirmed that by the end of last year, the vacancy rate for Detective Constables in the Met Police had dropped to 3.4%.
By 2022/2023, the Met will be forced to make savings totalling over £1billion to their budget.
Whilst the government has pledged 1,369 new officers for London by next year, it has not yet outlined plans to boost the number of detectives or backroom staff in police forces across England and Wales.
The Mayor agreed with Mr Desai’s observation that the government’s promise of new police officers could provide an opportunity for more frontline Met Police staff to be upskilled to take on investigative roles.
Mr Desai also raised the specific issue of the shortage of experienced detectives within the ranks of the Met Police. The Mayor provided his reassurances that the force is using all the tools at its disposal to address this, citing its focus on the recruitment of retired detectives as civilian staff.
Mr Desai said: “Over the last decade, we have seen the capacity of the Met Police to tackle and investigate all forms of crime stripped down due to irresponsible and relentless government cuts.
“Whilst the government has finally come to its senses and pledged new police officers for our streets as a tentative bid to repair some of the damage, it is obviously vital that the Met has enough experienced and highly qualified detectives within its ranks.
“I was pleased to directly receive assurances from the Mayor today that the Met are working hard to get to grips with this issue and are making progress in reducing the detective vacancy rate.
“This is a question of ensuring that victims of crime and their families can be confident that they will receive justice and that the most dangerous criminals are taken off our streets.
“This is why it is crucial that the government steps-in and provides the right support to the Met so they can be even more ambitious with their recruitment targets.”