Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, is to step down after five years in the job.
In London, the Green members of the London Assembly have played a key role over the years in scrutinising the Met, with former Green London Assembly member Jenny Jones winning a fierce reputation – first on the Metropolitan Police Authority and then the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee – for grilling senior Met officers. I now represent the Greens on the Police and Crime Committee, and one of the issues I've been pressing on is equality in police recruitment.
Currently, only a third of the total Met workforce are women and there are still just over 12% black and minority ethnic (BAME) officers, compared with around 40% in London's population as a whole. This is not good enough after decades of concern about diversity in the police.
While there are already rumours about female candidates to replace Sir Bernard, with issues like community relations, online fraud and violence against women replacing crimes like burglaries and muggings as the most common problems the Met needs to work on, Londoners need to see a police service that looks and feels like them.
After many years of incredibly slow progress, radical positive action is needed. Problems with attracting and appointing the best, most representative talent to the Met make a sensible change in the law on recruitment vital.
The next few years are our best chance ever to fundamentally change the Metropolitan Police into something that really represents and works with Londoners, not just at the top but throughout the force, with more equality in recruitment. The most effective way of achieving this after many failed initiatives is a change in the law to allow preferential recruitment of equally qualified female and BAME officers.
Positive action on recruitment can make a huge difference. There has been some success with this in Northern Ireland, where the Patten Reforms to policing in 1999 temporarily brought in quotas to boost the recruitment of Catholic officers in an overwhelmingly Protestant police force.
Helping the Met to do the same would mean the Government amending the provisions within the Equality Act (section 159) for London from requiring 'equal merit 'to 'equally qualified' recruits, at least temporarily. This would enable positive action in 'volume recruitment': recruiting preferentially from underrepresented groups when a number of applicants within a pool meet the high standards required.
It's great that the outgoing Commissioner has already supported this change. When I asked the Mayor Sadiq Khan about his views on this on the London Assembly, I also secured a commitment for him to ask the Government to consider it. And for the similarly unrepresentative London Fire Brigade, my colleague Caroline Russell has also won backing for the same move from the Fire Commissioner.
I hope the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will continue Bernard Hogan-Howe's support for these changes. The Greens will continue to push the Met to do better, until we have a police service that is fit for purpose in representing the diverse people of London.
Green member of the London Assembly and candidate for Mayor of London in 2008 and 2016