Plan for Met officers to patrol parks

Published: Friday 1st April 11

Parks, commons and open spaces across the borough could benefit from enhanced levels of safety and security under new plans to have them patrolled by dedicated teams of uniformed Metropolitan Police officers.

Under proposals now being actively considered, as many as 16 Met officers would be engaged to provide a visible police presence in the borough's green spaces. They would have the full range of police powers and advanced levels of training.

The 16-strong squad would only be used to patrol parks and open spaces. They would not be called upon to respond to other police duties unless it was an emergency.

The officers would comprise mainly constables while some may hold the rank of sergeant. They would not be civilian community support officers (PCSOs).

Negotiations are now underway between Wandsworth Council and the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) over the proposals.

If the negotiations are successful, the officers would come under the management and supervision of Wandsworth's divisional police commander, but they would be tasked solely with providing a visible and effective police presence in parks and open spaces.

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 Metropolitan Police Service is committed to making the borough safer for residents and those who work, socialise and travel through Wandsworth."

In recent years, patrol duties in the borough's parks and commons has rested on the shoulders of the Wandsworth parks police service - specially trained civilians employed as uniformed constables by the council. Wandsworth was the first local authority in London to introduce a parks police service. Most other boroughs do not provide this service at all.

If the negotiations with the MPA are successful, then the 16 fully-trained Met officers would provide the service instead of the staff currently employed in the parks police.

As well as securing a team of officers with higher levels of training and greater powers, the arrangements could save council tax payers in Wandsworth up to £800,000 a year.

These savings would be achieved by a reduction in staff costs, office costs, management costs and also equipment costs.

The council's environment spokesman Cllr Sarah McDermott said: "This is an exciting initiative that could significantly enhance the police and security presence in Wandsworth's open spaces.

"Our parks and commons 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.

"Guaranteeing this level of safety for the public is of paramount importance to us. We believe that if we can secure a dedicated team of Met officers to provide that highly visible police presence - it will be an improvement on our existing arrangements.

"We are now in the middle of discussions with the MPA to deliver these improvements and are confident that we will soon reach an agreement.

"In these difficult economic times, we are having to review every single thing we do - and if we can deliver an enhanced police and patrolling service to the public while achieving significant savings at the same time, then that is something we are obviously keen to pursue.

"What we must not do however is overlook the sterling work done over many years by the parks police service. What we are now seeking to do is build upon their successes and achievements and continue to provide the safest possible environment for visitors to our parks and open spaces."

The ground breaking deal being discussed with the MPA follows an offer last month to London's town halls from the Mayor Boris Johnson enabling them to purchase extra police resources for their boroughs.

The Mayor's offer was on a "buy one get one free" basis. For every officer the boroughs paid for, the Mayor would 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 and get 16.

The Mayor said: "This ingenious 'buy one get one free' scheme will boost more police officers in every corner of our city. As councils across London are balancing their budgets, this scheme will give them even more crime fighting ability."

The proposals will be discussed in full by councillors on the environment, culture and community safety overview and scrutiny committee on April 5.


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Recent comments

My organization, London Wildcare, has worked with the parks Police for 13 years and we greatly value the knowledge that they have of their own borough. In our borough, Sutton, a 10 year old parks police service was replaced with two met teams paid for by the council back in 2009...since when I have seen their dedicated officers and vehicles at road accidents, major incidents, and many other non-parks related call-outs. Wandsworth has a service to be proud of...you risk losing something that you truly won't appreciate until it's gone...and then it will be lost forver. Think again!
Ted Burden

13 June 2011

Policing and Park Management are complicated issues. Sue makes a fair point about patrolling from cars. Roller blades don't work - skates don't work on grass as any search of the piloting of this in Hyde Park years ago will show. As a regular park user I can't say I've seen a particularly high police presence. And in terms of job losses, there may be opportunities for some to transfer to the Met. We have to be realistic about resourcing and provision in the Borough. Properly scoped, this could maximise resourcing.
E Michel

7 May 2011

This is a false economy the buy one get one free will not last for ever, then what will wandsworth do. Other boroughs such as sutton , Barking and Dagenham, Newham have gone down this route only to see it fail and their parks get worse, the Met Police will start off fully committed they will then start to use these officers to respond to incidents on the streets when they are overstreached with outstanding calls leaving the parks without cover. This is a bad move Wandsworth and will cost you more money in the long term think again.
David smith

25 April 2011

I would suggest that residents concerned about these proposals research the crime figures for parks in the other boroughs that went down this route ie Newham and Barking and Dagenham. They too introduced Met "Safer Parks" teams that have been an unmitigated disaster with crime through the roof. A sad day for a proud law enforcement service with a fine history. Countless years of policing experience thrown on the scrapheap.
Park user

11 April 2011

I strongly disagree with the plans to abolish the parks police and replace with Mr Johnson's "buy one, get one free" met policemen. The parks police do a magnificent job in our area and this last minute announcement (4 days before your councillors meet to discuss the matter) pays no thought to the rapport that the current officers have with the local community. They are experienced, fast acting and incredibly efficient when it comes to parks policing matters. How much of the £800,000 saving would be swallowed up with redundancy payments? It will be a matter of time before the new "BOGOFF" met police get sucked into other borough policing matters. The lack of decent consultation period with this notice is disappointing to say the least.
Caroline Cumberlege

6 April 2011

Might I suggest that these officers use bikes for their patrols - or, better still, as do the police in Paris, patrol on rollerblades, rather than sitting in vehicles from which they can see very little.
Sue

5 April 2011

This is an interesting subject, but come on do people really think that the Met Police will 'ring fence' officers to just patrol the parks. What will happen when there are calls coming in across the borough and the senior officer on duty re-deploys these officers to deal with an urgent call in another part of the borough. Just have a look at some of the other boroughs that have closed their parks police, the parks are no go areas.
Erin Fletcher

5 April 2011

Can 16 Met Police officers cover the large area and the hours required? How many officers would be on duty at any one time? 4 if you are very lucky!! Will the cover be the same 7 days a week? At present 7 officers on duty 7 days a week and all Subject Matter Experts in the Parks and Open Spaces of Wandsworth. Who will decide what is an exceptional incident and allow the "Ring Fenced Officers" off the parks to deal with incidents? An old adage"If it ain't broke don't fix it" Most of the Officers of the Parks Police are long serving and dedicated. This is something the council should look at again and reconsider its options! Once you disband an organisation like this it is very hard to recreate it.
Phil Lee

5 April 2011

As you say, our parks and open spaces in Wandsworth are among the safest in London - because we have a parks police force - 24/7! As I understand, having spoken to residents who are in Battersea Park on a daily basis, the Met Police option would not provide cover round the clock and the parks would not open as early as they do now because shifts don't start until 7am - who is going to break this news to the hundreds of Wandsworth residents who currently have early morning access to gated parks? The Parks Police have a huge local knowledge base and have helped to keep crime to a minimum. I have a terrible feeling, from the tone of the press release, that a decision to remove them has already been made - without proper public consultation
Sara Milne

5 April 2011

I am surprised by this move. Wandsworth has produced a very good service and nothing is to be gained by recruiting Met Officers. The primary role of Wandsworth PP is enforcing the byelaws. The Met are unlikely to do that as it is not a priority. The authority will be paying for something it has little control over even if local agreements are in place. With the Olympics coming to London it is the wrong time to even think of buying MPS officers. They will be very stretched and the low priority of byelaw related matters will see these {dedicated} officers being used elsewhere. Wait until after 2012 and then reconsider. Don't waste the success achieved for a 3 year deal.
John Boylin

4 April 2011

I think this a very foolish idea. If anyone really thinks that Met Police officers are going to just Police Wandsworth Parks, think again. The Met cant cover their own calls and when its busy the so "Met Parks Police" willl be used elsewhere in London, leaving Wandsworth Parks unattended. Wandsworth Borough has its own dedicated Parks Police, something other boroughs can only dream of. If Wandswirth Council want to save money, why dont they look in other areas like Corporate Hospitality rather than front line services. Wandsworth Council used to be the jewel in the crown of Tory central office, how things change. As they say, penny wise pound stupid. Look to the future and leave the present Wandsworth Parks Police as they are.
Richard Potter

4 April 2011

I'm not keen on a Press Release that very carefully says we "could" get a better service not that we would get a better service. Can it be confirmed there is a 24 hour service as now? Could we also see the overall cost - including the so-called free Boris officers. I am struck that I am still the one paying for these officers and they are not free at all....they merely appear in a different part of my tax bill!
Andrew Paul Healey

4 April 2011

It is an absolutely ridiculous idea - the Met have suffered immense cut backs in their budget yet the council are proposing taking 16 officers off the streets to man parks and commons which have been policed efficiently and well for many, many years by experienced Parks Police officers. The Parks Police has a very low turnover of staff many of the officers having been there since the inception of the Parks Police yet you are intending to dismiss that experience in favour of taking officers off the streets where they are in need and where crime levels are higher. It is absolutely ridiculous and yet another so called cut back that is not thought through and the bigger picture taken into account.
Chris Lusher

3 April 2011

This plan, if it was to go ahead, will be detrimental to the residents and visitors of Wandsworth. The good relationship between the Wandsworth Parks Police and the residents and visitors, not just to the parks and open spaces of the borough, but the borough as a whole, has been invaluable to the sense of safety and security of all. This relationship has been fostered over many years and no one could equal or better the quality, diversity, or experience of the service currently provided. A very important point that has been missed out of this press release is the fact that the police officers who have done such a 'sterling job' up until now, will lose their jobs with very little appreciation, monetary or otherwise, for their service.
L Cullen

3 April 2011

More people being made redundent and probably having to sign on which is more drain on the country. If it's not broke don't fix it, you think it's a saving but for who, our rents still go up (but our wages don't)and although the council tax is frozen when it is increased it will probably be increased to cover the times it was frozen so who are the so called savings for not for the officers being made redundent and certainly not for the residents.
Mrs Francis

3 April 2011

I was a Parks Police Constable from February 1985 to November 1992 and I am in full support of the officers that carry out the patrol duties of the Wandsworth Borough. They have built up a rappore with the people they come into contact with on a daily basis which will be irrepairably damaged by this change of policy. It took years to build the respect they have gained and will be lost in one ten minute Environment, Culture and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, In all I think it will be a tragic waste of tax payers money that will not provide the cover that Wandsworth Parks and Open Spaces have enjoyed for the last 25 years.
Mr Kim Coote

2 April 2011

I think the proposed plan is just about saving money and has nothing to do with public safety. The Parks Police have provided us with an excellent service over the years and it is preposerous to think that you could disband them without any negative repercussions. The Parks police are a dedicated team who know the area well and can respond to a problem quickly and efficiently. This is a false savings because we will pay for it in the end with increased crime. The reputation for safety that Cllr McDermott refers to is because of the Parks police. To imagine this same level of service will continue with some overstretched police officers for the whole borough is naive in the extreme.
Janice Lawton

2 April 2011

I don't agree with the proposed plan. By removing the Parks Police, you remove a visible force which acts as a deterrent for criminals. 16 Police officers, covering all parks and open spaces (a massive area in a large borough) will never be able to provide the same level of deterrent.
Christian Oddono

1 April 2011

A very short paragraph in your press release refers to the sterling work carried out by the Parks Police. I would second that but would then go on to say, If it works, why on earth change it? Has the Council been bought off by Mayor Johnson? As Secretary for the Queenstown SNT Panel and NW Working Group, I can testify to the hard work of the Parks Police, often side by side with the Safer Neighbourhood Team officers. That is why we have a much safer borough. Quite frankly, I almost find your treatment of the Parks Police in this throw away manner as insulting to a hardworking and brave body of officers.
susan lofthouse

1 April 2011