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Learning from the Met

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Metropolitan Police PHOTO: mirror.co.uk

The Metropolitan Police Service, informally as the Met, is the territorial police force responsible for law enforcement in Greater London, excluding the “square mile” of the City of London, which is the responsibility of the City of London Police.

The Met was established, by an Act of Parliament, in 1829. By 1838, the force had 3,000 men, organised into seven divisions, policing London. All this excluded the City of London, where a separate city police force was established in 1832.

As of September 2017, the Met had 40,874 full-time personnel including 30,871 police officers, 8,005 police staff, 1,384 police community support officers, 614 detectives, and 2,470 special constables, who work part-time.

Since 1839, there have been 14 laws passed to change the nature of the Met. These laws were mostly passed in response to realities on the ground at the time, so as an example, when it was noticed in 1850 that there were 200 separate police forces in England and Wales, the Country and Borough Police Act of 1856 ensured that the various police forces became subject to central inspection. The Police Act of 1914 allowed unions, but when the police went on strike in 1918, the Police Act of 1919 quickly criminalised the police union, but crucially built in a pension and wage increases for policemen.

The overall operational leader of the force is the Commissioner, who is answerable, responsible and accountable to The Queen, and the Home Office. But since January 2012, the Mayor of London has been directly responsible for the governance of the Metropolitan Police through the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). The Mayor was given a direct mandate for policing in London, as part of the Police and Social Responsibility Act. As such, the Mayor is responsible for setting the strategic direction of policing in London through the Police and Crime Plan. The work of MOPAC is scrutinised by the Police and Crime Committee (also known as a police and crime panel) of the London Assembly. These structures were created by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and replaced the Metropolitan Police Authority appointed board created in 2000 by Greater London Authority Act 1999.

The Home Secretary also has a specific role regarding the functions of the Met that go beyond policing London – for example, counter-terrorism policing and the national policing functions that the Met carries out.

Essentially, the Met is subject to rigorous scrutiny and checks by various bodies to ensure that it is operating in accordance to its mandate.

Compare all of this with the Nigerian Police which exists as a force to provide security for Nigerians. It was established in 1930 by the colonial government. Before 1930, we had the Hausa Constabulary, established in 1879, the Royal Niger Company Constabulary (1888), the Niger Coast Constabulary (1894), and the Lagos Police, which was established in 1896.

Like Nigeria’s regions before it in 1914, the different police forces were merged for,  “administrative convenience” by 1930. I suspect, but have not read definitive proof, that this was a response to the Aba Women’s Riots of 1929 since the inquest into that protest found that many members of the Niger Coast Constabulary did not do much to put down the protests, being that the protestors were their kith and kin. From that moment, the police was administered from Lagos to stifle dissent to colonial rule.

This particular mission statement is important, because asides from a few isolated cases, our police was never really an investigating force.

At our “independence”, our policemen simply swapped masters. Their brief did not change. Since then, things have steadily gotten worse, and now, our police is effectively a bodyguard for the elite, as we can see in the deployment of 30,000 policemen for Saturday’s elections in Ekiti, despite the killings all over the country.

The debate over state policing (I prefer to use the expression, community policing) has been raging for a while, and as we can see from our former colonial masters, it is the way to go, and I am in full support of the debate that has belatedly started on the floor of the National Assembly. However, it is important to note that laws should be based on our own experiences. Thus, it is important for us to put in place the laws that will sort out properly, the lines of reporting for our various community police forces, lest we replace one bad federal police force, with a number of bad local police forces.

We should note the different police forces for different areas. Greater London has the Met, while the City of London Police is for the financial district. It has among its strongest arms, the Economic Crime Directorate, and the Corporate Services Directorate and is the acknowledged lead force within the UK for economic crime investigation. It is effective, unlike the EFCC, which like the Nigerian Police Force, is a lumbering giant. Simply put, a policeman from Panshkin in Plateau can never be effective in Warri. He will just end up being a bully.


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