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Met Police severely strained by policing London protests

The Met Police has been severely “bent out of shape” by the strain of policing the central London protests over the conflict in Israel and Gaza, City Hall has been told.

Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley admitted on Wednesday that the protests and offences related to the conflict had required officers to be re-deployed from different parts of the force “more clumsily than I would like”.

Speaking at a London Policing Board meeting chaired by mayor Sadiq Khan, Sir Mark said the Met had so far spent 28,000 officer shifts on Operation Brocks – the force’s response to the knock-on effects of the situation in the Middle East in London.

That number has been augmented by “1,600 officer shifts on mutual aid from other forces, which we’ll be continuing with”, the commissioner said.

He also told the board: “We are severely – and I anticipate for the long term – bent out of shape, both organisationally, and [in a way] that affects many individuals…

“We’ve got over 800 open hate crime cases that we’re working through, which will take thousands of officer hours to work through them and try and bring offenders to justice.

“And that’s in the context of, from the 7th of October to today, compared to this time last year, we’re running at a now around twelve-fold increase in anti-Semitic hate crime and three-fold increase in anti-Muslim hate crime.”

Sir Mark said these added pressures were having “a big impact on day-to-day policing”, including officers increasingly having to work 12-hour shifts at weekends, rather than the usual 10.

“We’re doing immense amounts of extra community policing in the neighbourhoods of Jewish communities and Muslim communities, because of the increases in hate crime and the anxiety they fear, but the remainder of community policing is massively degraded,” the commissioner said.

He suggested that weekend neighbourhood policing in an average ward – small administrative areas which make up London boroughs – had been reduced by around two thirds.

“Normally, in a ward, you might have about one and a half officers on patrol at a weekend – neighbourhood police officers. On average you’ve got a half, at the moment, so that’s the sort of degree of impact that it’s having,” he said.

The commissioner later acknowledged that the re-deploying of officers could be done in a better way, saying: “Because of our foundations – some of our HR and training and resource deployment and management not being as strong as they need to – when you’re moving big numbers of people around the organisation, we’re doing it more clumsily than I would like…

“So that impacts on individuals, which goes into them actually feeling negatively about the organisation.”

He said the Met was maintaining the level of response it gives to “critical” and violent incidents, but that the number of officer “rest days” being cancelled as a result of the increased pressures was “not sustainable”.

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