The graph above tells the story clearly. Taken from the London Datastore community safety section, it shows that from December 2014 until June 2017, Londoners as a whole expressed levels of confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service ranging from 66 to 69 per cent. Then came the downward slope, almost unbroken, to just 51 per cent at the end of last year, the most recent figure available.
The striking thing is how long-term the decline has been, beginning almost three years before the pandemic began, before the Black Lives Matter demonstrations – the handling of which drew strong criticism from some – and before the highest profile and foulest cases of misconduct and worse of the past couple of years.
Elements of the negative trend can be seen in more detail in the public perceptions survey data published by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).
Over the past seven years Londoners have become significantly less likely to agree that the Met listens to the concerns of local people, deal with the things that matter to their community, do a good job locally, treat everyone fairly or can be relied on to “be there when needed”. In the last case the figure has dropped from 77 per cent in December 2014 to 59 per cent in December 2021.
The only good news is a recovery to a still very low 27 per cent of people saying they know how to contact their local ward officer, which had slumped to a miserable 12 per cent in 2019.
Breakdowns of these figures to borough level are also revealing and rather discouraging. The numbers agreeing that the police “treat everyone fairly regardless of who they are” are at their lowest in the inner London boroughs of Lambeth (45 per cent), Hackney (51 per cent), Islington (51 per cent) and Lewisham (52 per cent) and at their highest in outer London Kingston (80 per cent), Bexley (79 per cent), Sutton (77 per cent) and Hillingdon 76 per cent).
The numbers agreeing that the police “can be relied upon to be there when needed” show less variation within a rather unimpressive range between the lowest figure of 52 per cent in Greenwich and the highest of 68 per cent in Sutton.
Of course, these categories are quite broad, the questions will mean different things to different people and responses will be affected by events that make the news. The figures collected from different boroughs have change in relation to each other over time.
To give one fairly random example, the “relied on to be there” figure for Greenwich in September 2017 was not only much higher than for December 2012 at 79 per cent, but also in the middle of the borough range, with Brent at the bottom at that time and Barking & Dagenham at the top.
But for all these nuances and caveats, the big picture is pretty depressing, however you look at it. Without the confidence and trust of the public, it is much more difficult for the Met to be effective. The next Met commissioner will have a big job to do.
To see the figures discussed in this article, visit MOPAC’s public voice dashboard and follow the “public perceptions” link.
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