In a bid to reflect London's diversity, the Metropolitan Police will now only recruit people who live in the capital city. The force will also consider taking new recruits with minor criminal convictions, local media reports.
Beginning in August, the Met will only consider constables who have lived in Greater London for at least three of the past six years. The policy has the full backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson and Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
“With London’s population increasing and becoming even more diverse it is essential that our workforce is able to maintain the trust and confidence of London’s communities,” said Sir Bernard.
The move follows plans announced in March to fast-track external recruits into senior policing roles in order to improve diversity in the force.
“Recent recruitment rounds have attracted a more diverse pool of applicants, but by focusing exclusively on Londoners from now on, we can achieve our goals more quickly,” said Johnson, as quoted by the Press Association news agency.
Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor for policing and crime who has daily oversight of the Met, said the focus of any new rounds of recruitment would be on “competence” – including cultural competence – and not on “color” or quotas.
He also said that the plan is aimed at reversing the number of officers commuting into London from the home counties.
“We have got to recognize that having a majority of your workforce that travel in very large distances to come to work, do not even live or have never resided for any period of time in the city, cannot be healthy," he said.
“If you come in and you don’t know anybody, it’s very hard to be an effective officer,” he added.
The Met has faced criticism for being too white, with just 11 percent of Met officers from an ethnic minority – compared to four in ten Londoners.
Of recent intakes, 60 percent of new officers are from outside London, and just 10 percent are from ethnic minorities. In contrast, of the new recruits from London, 30 percent are from ethnic minorities.
Some police chiefs fear that the legitimacy of policing in the capital is being undermined by the widening race gap.
In fact, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe considered introducing positive discrimination, where one ethnic minority officer would be recruited for every new white officer. However, this would have a required a change in the law, and the plan was not welcomed by the Home Office.
The Met is still held in poor regard by black Londoners in the wake of the 1999 Macpherson report into Met prejudice, which allegedly let the racist murderers of Stephen Lawrence escape justice. There is also a lack of trust in the police from the black community as a result of the 2011 London riots, which were sparked by the unnecessary shooting and killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, north London.
The Met has also announced it is relaxing strict rules on recruitment to allow people to join who have been convicted of minor criminal offenses. The Met says its current policy is “very restrictive,” and that its needs a “more balanced and nuanced view.”
“Of course, an armed robber could not be a police officer nor could a murderer but we are looking at each case. It is about the severity of that case and the length of time that has elapsed since that case,” said Met HR director Robin Wilkinson.