Dedicated Met squad for borough’s parks

Published: Thursday 27th October 11

Public safety and security in Wandsworth’s parks and open spaces could soon be strengthened with the introduction of a dedicated patrol team of Metropolitan Police officers.

An agreement with the Met could see a squad of 12 officers taking over responsibility for patrolling and ensuring public safety in the borough's parks and commons. Councillors will be asked to approve these changes on November 9.

The introduction of this new police team would represent the first time in 26 years that Wandsworth has benefited from a team of Met police officers dedicated solely to patrolling the borough's green spaces and armed with the full range of police powers, equipment and training.

The new squad would include two sergeants and ten constables and be comprised of additional police recruits to the borough. The number of existing Met officers covering other policing duties in the borough would not be reduced.

And to complement this newly formed safer parks team the proposals call for a small squad of five staff from the council's existing parks police service to be retained to provide detailed local knowledge of open spaces and to be available to police events, chiefly those in Battersea Park.

They would have powers to enforce Wandsworth's parks and commons byelaws, including some powers of arrest, but would be distinguishable from the Met's safer parks team.

The plans would see a total of 17 officers being available to patrol the borough's parks and commons. This is an increase on the 16 men and women in the council's existing team of parks patrollers.

The new Met team would only be used in their core role of patrolling local parks. They would be ring-fenced for this purpose and not be available for other police duties in the borough.

This dozen strong team would all be fully fledged police officers with the full powers of a warranted police constable and able to enforce all laws that apply in England. They would not be civilian community support officers (PCSOs).

They would use Met police radios and other communications systems and 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.

As well as providing enhanced safety and security, the changes would save council tax payers in Wandsworth around £400,000 a year, through reductions in existing staff costs plus the costs of providing office accommodation, management and equipment.

These savings can be achieved as a result of a unique partnership funding offer from the Mayor of London, who earlier this year 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 provide a second - giving councils two police officers for the price of one. In this way Wandsworth's intention is to "purchase" six officers in order to get 12.

The council's environment and community safety spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "These proposals represent great news for visitors to our parks and commons. For the first time in 26 years they will be patrolled on a daily basis by a dedicated squad of police officers with the full range of police powers, training, equipment and resources.

"These officers would remain solely on duty in parks. They could not be called away to fulfil other policing duties unless there were overwhelming and compelling reasons such as a national emergency.

"And in order to keep a solid level of local knowledge and to further enhance safety and security levels we are proposing to retain a core reserve of our existing parks police officers.

"Overall the total number of patrollers employed to keep the public safe would increase slightly - and what's more they would be better equipped to deal with any situation that may arise.

"If approved this will also be good news for council tax payers in Wandsworth, who will benefit from a saving of £400,000 a year whilst at the same time continuing to receive a top quality service.

"Our parks and commons have long enjoyed a reputation for being amongst the safest in London. These proposals will reinforce and strengthen that reputation and ensure even greater levels of safety and security for the public."

The proposals will be discussed by councillors on the environment, culture and community safety overview and scrutiny committee on November 9.


ENDS

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Recent comments

What will happen to the current Parks Police? Does this mean yet more Wandsworth staff slung onto the scrapheap?
Longtime resident

28 October 2011

Will these new police officers be on foot or bike? Having them in a vehicle is useless, they are limited as to where they can go and see so much less. And are difficult to access from the point of view of the public.
Sue

28 October 2011

As a rate payer for local parks, I would like to know who owns the properties used by the park rangers, clerks and keepers at present. If they belong to the public then I do not want them transfered to the Police. Is this just a cosmetic way of keeping up police numbers whilst sacking public servants. Will these officers be responsible for keepng footpaths clear of trees and rubbish.
george hebborn

28 October 2011

Yet again the Council sends out a glittering press release before the final decision has even been made. Or is there something we have not been told? The release omits the fact that the Boris Bogoffs are only available for three years. It would be useful to know what happens at the end of that term. By the way, the Boris police offer was supposed to put more police on the streets. Our estates are desperate for more officers. Why replace a perfectly adequate, respected and experienced Parks Police, when we need those extra police elsewhere. Surely the original intention of Boris was not to save the council money.
susan lofthouse

27 October 2011

But what this article does not say is what happens after three years when the Met Police are no longer funded to police the parks.......
Mr Wilfred Crookson

27 October 2011

more security always welcomed news.
hisham hamza

27 October 2011