Brent’s top cop: How we aim to earn ‘your trust and confidence’

Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher Brent's borough commander

Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher Brent's borough commander - Credit: Archant

Every week Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher, borough commander for Brent Police, speaks to Times’ readers about policing in the borough. This week he speaks about the challenges the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) face in public confidence.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) currently faces some very serious challenges in public confidence as a result of our handling of the Steven Lawrence investigation and our use of undercover officers.

As you know there will be an inquiry which may take a long time, but what was done was clearly unacceptable.

This week I want to share with you what we are doing at Brent in the field of stop and search and consultation to earn your trust and confidence in the local policing service we provide.

Stop and search, when used well, is an excellent tool to prevent, disrupt and detect crime. When use badly it is extremely damaging and divisive. Over the last two years we have run mentoring programs for new officers to teach them better tradecraft.

We have focused on improving outcome rates and making officers more selective in its use.

Over the last three years we have incrementally reduced the volume of searches we do on a monthly basis by 68 per cent.

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We have also raised the positive outcome rate (weapons, drugs or stolen property found) from 14 per cent to 30 per cent.

These figures are, however, only meaningful if you and I can have confidence in them. To ensure this, we cross check police national computer checks to stop search records to look for under recording, dip sample the records and volunteer groups audit the electronic database. The independent stop search scrutiny group also dip sample records and have individual officers attend their meetings to question them and hold them to account. This is however obviously not infallible, so we are always searching for new and better ways to increase our inspection of and transparency in the use of this power.

Last week we made a significant step towards greater transparency. Brent has been accepted on behalf of the MPS to participate in a national pilot that looks at the use of body worn cameras. It will be evaluated by academics at Cambridge University. You may know that we had been trialing the use of point-of-view cameras for some time.They record digital footage with an audio soundtrack. Our use of them will now be enlarged and auditing opened up to the independent stop search scrutiny committee. This is an exciting development. It significantly increases transparency. It significantly raises accountability as footage will be available for complaints.

It will raise standards as footage will be used to feed back learning. This is good news.

In terms of consultation, we are reinvigorating our use of virtual ward panels. Many people do not have the time to attend a ward panel meeting in the evening but still have an opinion about what we should be doing. This quarterly e-survey that takes about 1-3 minutes to complete seeks your views on six or so hyper-local issues. The results are shared along with an update a month or so later regarding what we have done about it. If you have a opinion as to what your ward team should be prioritising, then let one know and they will include you in the next virtual ward panel.

Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher

Brent Borough Commander