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Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK


The business of running the Met

Sir Paul Condon: Commissioner for the "toughest six years ever"

Sir Paul Condon was identified as Commissioner material very early in his career in a police magazine article looking at stars for the future.

At the age of 45 he was the youngest ever Police Commissioner commanding 28,000 officers, 17,000 civilians and running a budget of £1.5bn.

Commissioner comments on racism in a 1993 BBC report
But he has also presided over what the Police Federation describes as "the most traumatic six years a Commisioner has faced" and morale within the force is said to be extremely low.

Angered by what he calls the Commissioner's unwillingness to stand up for his staff throughout the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, outgoing Police Federation chief Sergeant Mike Bennett, has joined the calls of Stephen Lawrence's parents for Mr Condon to resign.

Fast track to the top

[ image:  ]
After being made an inspector while still in his 20s, Paul Condon rapidly rose through the senior ranks. He became Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Met before being appointed Chief Constable in Kent in 1989.

It was there his business-like approach to policing came to the fore. He launched a programme of reforms and also came down heavily on corruption.

Police business

His record in Kent inspired the then Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke to appoint him to the top job at Scotland Yard.

[ image: New Commisioner business-like from the outset]
New Commisioner business-like from the outset
From the outset he planned to tackle crime as though it was a consumer item. He introduced a set of standards for police which promised emergency calls would be answered within 15 seconds and officers would arrive at urgent crime scenes within 12 minutes.

He also announced a "new moral high ground" for the Met and expressed a determination to eliminate discrimination or prejudice within the force.

His push for equal opportunites, and his hard-line on corruption earnt him the reputation as the PC (politically correct) PC in his first year.

[ image: Sgt Mike Bennett: Officers need support]
Sgt Mike Bennett: Officers need support
But, according to the Police Federation, his new career system - under which no officer will stay in the same station or squad for more than ten years, and willingness to speak out about problems in the force has been anything but PC amongst officers.

"He has told the world we're fiddling pensions and sick leave - if that is going on it is his problem - a management problem. He has told the world that we have 250 corrupt officers yet he has done nothing to substantiate that," Mike Bennett said.

Gary Mason from the Police Review magazine says the Commissioner's approach has opened him to attack from both sides.

"The rank and file see him as too politically correct... but from the outside he is seen as someone presiding over a racist police organisation," Mr Mason said.

The Lawrence Inquiry

It is ironic perhaps that the Commissioner who was so determined to fight racism in the force is being called to step down over the evidence of racism that has come to the fore through the Lawrence inquiry.

"Paul Condon does care very much and has been deeply and personally upset at some of the matters that have come out in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry," Mr Mason said.

[ image: Mr and Mrs Lawrence: called for resignation]
Mr and Mrs Lawrence: called for resignation
But it has also upset the public. An opinion poll released in July showed that almost half the people of London had lost faith in the police since the inquiry began.

The Commissioner has already said that the police let the Lawrence family down and he is expected to admit to some racism in the force when he appears at the Lawrence inquiry.

The police federation says that is not the sort of endorsement from the top that young officers desperately need.

"I would sum the commissioner up as saying he has managed the Metropolitan police but he hasn't lead them."

But Gary Mason says the Commissioner is suffering for having to make some unpopular decisions with the rank and file.

"It's difficult to be a good leader if you can't win the hearts and minds of your young officers," Mr Mason said.

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