London Calling – A Scottish Cop’s Experience of Policing with the Met

I have recently returned from London as part of the national mutual aid deployment to support the Metropolitan Police during the Olympic Games. I was part of of public order contingency in the event of disorder.

Traditionally, public order reserves have been strategically deployed to a car park somewhere, out of sight, out of mind until needed. However, recently this has changed and there is a recognition that public order resources can be more gainfully employed but still available to task if required. I was, therefore, very lucky to get the chance to police London Boroughs, undertaking various tasks from providing urgent assistance to carrying out rapid intervention and drug searches.

I feel it is important to highlight that policing the Greater London area is an enormous task and I only had a small snapshot of it, this is not an academic study by any means.

My working day in London began at an MBDC (Met Briefing and Deployment Centre) where we were fed, provided with a snack, given our deployment and briefed. There were several, but the picture below will provide a clue to where ours was. These were massive temporary sites, capable of feeding and briefing thousands every day.


We didn’t always police the boroughs and I was fortunate to police the road cycling, Marylebone Cricket Club (Lords), Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.


However, the normal deployment was to a borough, where we reported to the ‘Grip and Pace Centre’ for specific duties. The GPC was a new concept to me and I have mixed views. It was explained that the name meant ‘get a grip and inject some speed (pace)’. These acted as localised command and control stations (the Met use a centralised communications centre) and had a senior member of staff from the borough command team to take charge of incidents. There was also a Harm, Opportunity and Threat Sergeant, responsible for identifying incidents that present opportunities or threats to the force. While I identified some positives from this, I can’t help but feel that it adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

Our duties were, typically, a combination of patrolling identified hotspot areas and targeting individuals for arrest and we were usually provided with local officers to assist with navigation, local knowledge and to complete the paperwork. Of particular note was that the local officers tolerated a degree of abuse from some of the locals that would not be accepted by officers in Scotland. We were briefed in numerous occasions, particularly when deployed in Haringey and Lambeth (the boroughs covering Tottenham and Brixton respectively) about the sensitivities amongst the locals and warned regarding the tipping point. This constant discourse generates a culture of fear amongst officers.

It was heartening to be so well received when we patrolled some of the estates that come with reputations of being anti-police and my officers played football with local youths, rapped with them (I’m sure the footage is on YouTube, but I dread to look) and were invited to BBQs and street parties.) I’m sure this reaction was largely down to us being a curiosity and the locals readily identified us as strangers, our accents and black shirts making us stand out, but the fact we took the time to speak to them also helped. This is not a criticism of the Met, we had no time pressure and when you have 8 hours to walk round a small estate you speak to everyone, this coupled with the gregarious cops in my van meant you had to hide if you didn’t want to speak.

There was two aspects of policing in London which I thought were counterproductive.

Given the volume of incidents attended, there is a production line process to policing, whereby a response officer attends a call, notes details and a brief crime report, this is then passed to an enquiry officer, if someone is arrested, then a custody process team handles the follow up enquiry, the result of this is that there is little ownership, demarcation is the cry, that’s not my job, why should I do it? My officers assisted at a report of a burglary (housebreaking in Scots speak) and offered to do some door to door enquiry and were told by the local cop not to bother as ‘it isn’t our job.’ A local Sergeant, senior in service but my no means a dinosaur, bemoaned the lack of personal responsibility and ownership demonstrated by the local officers.

The other aspect I found troubling is the separation between response officers and community (safer neighbourhood teams). These tended to work as distinct entities, response cops work from anonymous patrol bases, located in industrial units with little or no identification on the outside while Safer Neighbourhood Teams work from small shop units located in the neighbourhoods they serve. While this has advantages, especially in locating the community cops in the community, policing the community should be the responsibility of all officers and making response officers remote from the community destroys that link.

The most heartening aspect of my tour was the number of complete strangers who stopped to thank us for the great job we were doing, a little praise goes a long way to improving and restoring moral. A happy cop is a productive cop.



About PoliceGeek

I am a police sergeant with a strong interest in policing public order, both professionally and academically. I love ultra running and seeking new challenges
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14 Responses to London Calling – A Scottish Cop’s Experience of Policing with the Met

  1. Very well written and sadly true. Essential skills are lost due to this production line that has appeared. Thank you for sharing x

  2. Michael McGuire says:

    Great to see officers from all over the uk here in London to help the Met police, I believe that if the met adopted a Scottish policemans ways then the local yobs would learn some respect officers in London tolerate far too much abuse but unfortunately they don’t have the ability to deal with these people properly as the courts are to soft ……… Bring Scottish law and order to England and watch crime rates drop

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  5. Nice blog. Thanks for sharing.

    The “silo” policing method is, to my mind, a failure. Lack of ownership of a job creates a confused and messy contact process and when problems are identified anyone who has had a hand in the jobs denies responsibilty. OIC led investigations engender better customer relations and more professionally experienced officers with a broad range of skills.

    A bigger debate than a reply to a blog!

    Glad you enjoyed your opportunity to visit London

  6. Pingback: The Olympics « MentalHealthCop

  7. MPS(n)P says:

    Interesting comments – glad you enjoyed your stay! I was at a couple of the road-racing events, and at Battersea a lot, so we may have crossed paths!

    Most boroughs don’t have patrol bases – they ran out of money long before they could set more than a few up, so most of us police from cramped, old-fashioned nicks on the high streets. In my borough it’s often the more-recently built SNT bases that are squirrelled away in odd places out of the public eye. Despite most having a mini-front office built into them, I have NEVER seen them open for business. They do always have excellent locker/shower facilities, and most seem to have more computers than are provided for an entire Response relief!

    Regarding the burglary – sounds more like lazy coppers than bad policy, although I guess every borough is different. We are expected to do door-to-door enqs as part of every burglary report we take – so the initial OIC (ie Response officer) should be trotting about knocking up the neighbours.

    As for skippers moaning about ‘lack of ownership’ – errrr, isn’t it his job to crack heads on that?!

  8. Great blog, interesting to see this from the perspective of the police as well as one from a force outside London. Sounds a great experience and I hope the feel good factor from the Olympics towards the Police continues to everyone’s advantage.

  9. Dave says:

    Deaths in custody study – Independent Police Complaints Commission
    ​Deaths in or following police custody are a controversial area of policing, and they represent some of the most high profile cases handled by the IPCC.

    Service Unavailable
    HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable.

    Says it all really.

  10. Exile says:

    Ah! I thought I was seeing things when I saw a couple of your lads cutting about Lambeth.

  11. Excellent observations of a policing model that many forces have embraced under the name of ‘efficiency’. It’s a ‘functional’ model, which at first sight appears logical, but creates silos and poor teamwork. You know the problem – a couple of hours into the shift, and all your officers are tied up at incidents or in custody. If officers who attend incidents have to keep the casework, then delays build up in completing the investigations. Prisoner handling teams free up response officers to get back out on patrol. Get some civilian staff to do those tasks that don’t really need cops, eg speaking to the public, house to house enquiries, statement taking, fingerprinting, etc. Response cops only really need to do the ‘golden hour’ emergency attendance – put a sticking plaster on the job, and then blat off to the next emergency. Neighbourhood cops (or better still, PCSOs) can do the ‘problem solving’. Logical, modernised, specialised.
    Hmmm.. The net result of this is actually more cost and poorer service. Response cops don’t understand the issues behind the incidents they turn out to (let’s buy a new computer system to share local intelligence and customer info). Neighbourhood cops are too bogged down with follow-up tasks (let’s buy a new computer system to manage those tasks). Custody and investigation becomes a production line chasing numerical targets. Centralised call handling and control rooms adds further to the dysfunction, putting extra message-takers and message-passers between the victim and the cop who finally turns up (‘send four and sixpence, we’re going to a dance’). Net result is more cost, more problems, worse service.
    In an attempt to fix these systemic failures, the Met has introduced ‘GPCs’ and ‘HOT Sergeants’. The role of these resources is to fix the faults of the model, and I’m sure they’ll have a positive impact. But the systemic failures will still be there.

    • MPS(n)P says:

      The GPCs and disgruntled HOT sgts are doing nothing but adding another room full of people asking us to go to weary calls. They have 3 meetings a day with SMT, the end result of which is always “well, we should send people to outstanding calls when they are finished at their last one” – which would’ve happened anyway.

      Grip and Pace achieves almost nothing more than the old IBOs did – and is considerably less helpful when it comes to fast-time intel, which the over-worked and under-skilled CCC operators are now expected to do, despite them almost always being singled-crewed on their channels.

      As for Response cops not knowing the issues at the jobs they turn up to; I’d say that on my ground Response have a better knowledge than SNT for most calls – because they are the ones constantly dealing with the issues. I’ve no doubt there are a pile of lower-level issues on each ward that never come to the notice of Response, but that stuff isn’t what you have them for anyway.

      Prisoner handling teams (CPUs) are usually made up almost exclusively of probationers and young-in-service officers on loan from Response.

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