Met to Take Over Policing of Local Parks

16 police officers to provide security in green open spaces

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Proposals to improve safety and security in local parks and open spaces by having a dedicated team of Metropolitan Police officers on patrol have been endorsed by councillors.

The council is now seeking agreement for a squad of 16 Met officers to take over responsibility for patrolling and ensuring public safety in the borough’s green open spaces.

Councillors at Tuesday night’s environment, culture and community safety scrutiny committee unanimously approved a recommendation to formally enter into negotiations with the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) that could see local parks and open spaces benefit from Met police patrols for the first time in 26 years.

Under the deal now being explored, the Met officers would only be used to patrol local parks. They would be ring-fenced for this purpose and not be available for other police duties in the borough.

The 16 officers would be fully trained and equipped constables and would not be civilian community support officers (PCSOs).

They would use Met Police radios and other communications systems and would be able to instantly summon police reinforcements from outside the parks in cases of emergency. They would also have instant access to the police national computer (PNC) to help them conduct their enquiries and investigations.

The Met officers would also have the full powers of a warranted police constable and be able to enforce all laws that apply in England.

If the negotiations with the MPA are successful, the 16 officers would take over patrolling and security duties from the council’s parks’ police service.

Wandsworth was the first local authority in London to introduce a parks police service. Most other boroughs do not provide this service at all.

Employees in the parks police are able to enforce park by-laws but do not have the full powers or the advanced training enjoyed by Met officers. Beyond the by-laws, they have only normal citizen’s powers of arrest.

Currently the council’s parks police employs 22 people – but only 15 are employed on full time patrolling duties. Their current hours of operation are from 6am to midnight – and this would not change under any new patrolling arrangements.

The Council say that the proposed changes would also save around £800,000 a year. These savings would be achieved by a reduction in staff costs, office costs, management costs and equipment costs.

This level of savings can be achieved as a result of a funding offer from the Mayor of London, who has invited boroughs to purchase extra police resources. The Mayor’s offer is on a “buy one get one free” basis. For every officer the boroughs pay for the Mayor will match fund a second – effectively giving councils two police officers for the price of one. In this way Wandsworth’s intention is to “purchase” eight officers but get 16.

Wandsworth’s police commander Chief Supt David Musker said: “We fully support this initiative and will be working with our partners in the local authority to design a service that meets the needs of those who enjoy the world class green open spaces in the borough.”

The council’s environment spokesman Cllr Sarah McDermott said: “These open spaces have long enjoyed a reputation for being amongst the safest in London. We have worked extremely hard over the years to make sure that visitors feel safe and secure and we do not intend to do anything that would jeopardise that position. Guaranteeing the safety of the public is of paramount importance to us.”

The proposals will next be discussed by the council’s executive on April 11.


April 13, 2011