On 16 January the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, gave a lecture on ‘Total Policing’ at the London School of Economics. By chance, earlier that day, London saw the first directly elected Police Commissioner take up his post (the title will be less confusing in the rest of the country, where they have Chief Constables). Any Londoners worried that they missed the chance to vote for this important figure needn’t be: the job automatically went to Boris Johnson. In light of his other duties as Mayor of London (and columnist for the Telegraph), he’s delegated most of his policing powers to his deputy Kit Malthouse, who as long ago as 2009 said: ‘We have our hands on the tiller.’
Hogan-Howe spent three years in charge of human resources at the Met and speaks the language of fake feeling that can go with that line of work. He spoke, without any visible affect, of his ‘passion for policing’ and ‘communication… which is a real passion for me’. ‘People often protest more in a recession,’ he said. ‘The police are often caught in that interface.’ His manner was so measured and reasonable – ‘I don’t think anyone yet understands what happened in the riots’ – that the chants from some of the audience at the end of ‘No justice, no peace, fuck the police’ seemed out of place.
But almost nothing he said stands up to scrutiny. How could he have got as far as he has without any idea why there is ‘disproportionality’ in who is stopped and searched? What does a ‘total war on criminals’ mean? Should the police really be allowed to continue taking DNA ‘from everyone we arrest’? Hogan-Howe calmly and convincingly contradicted the angry questioner in the audience who said that there had been 333 deaths in police custody in the last 13 years: ‘I’ve heard that figure a lot but I don’t think it’s accurate.’ The number – too low, if anything – is from the Independent Police Complaints Commission.