Plan for Met officers to patrol parks

Published: 1 April 2011

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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