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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
Special Branch to close in merger
Police patrol
Officers patrolling individually will be more approachable, says Sir Ian
Elite police team Special Branch is likely to lose its historic badge after 120 years in a shake-up of Scotland Yard's terrorism units.

The squad is to merge with the Met Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch to create a new Counter Terrorism Command.

The move is part of the Yard's latest plans designed to "move people from support services to the front line".

In addition, more officers will patrol the streets on their own in an effort to make them more approachable.

The closure of Special Branch is part of an overhaul of specialist operations which are being divided into three directorates.

'Safer neighbourhoods'

In addition to the enlarged counter-terrorist department, there will be one dealing with the security of buildings including Westminster and a third protecting people at high-risk.

The size of the counter-terrorist unit is likely to increase by about 500, to a total of just over 2,000 officers.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair also announced that within the Specialist Crime Directorate there would be a new emphasis on tackling organised criminal networks.

The changes due over three years will also see new police facilities across London and older police stations sold.

"It's a package that delivers safer neighbourhoods to everywhere in London," said Sir Ian.

Teams of police and community support officers (CSOs) would be permanently assigned to London's 624 wards in the next financial year as "the first building block" of the Met, Sir Ian told a New Scotland Yard press conference.

'Revolution'

That was bringing the London Safer Neighbourhoods programme to every borough a year ahead of schedule, he said.

The plan was "a revolution in policing that has not been seen in many generations in London", Sir Ian said.

The force will also move away from officers automatically patrolling in pairs.

"There are some places in London where it is obviously appropriate for officers to patrol together, but the policy we want to go to is one of 'proximity patrol'."

All of this is about moving people and money from support service to front line service
Sir Ian Blair
"The officers are in sight of each other but not necessarily walking together, so that they become more approachable to the public."

New call centres are to be operational in 25 boroughs next year, dealing "in a much more organised and modern way" with non-emergency calls.

The capital's forces are also to start working out of new buildings - more neighbourhood bases, spacious deployment centres, warehouses of cells, and rented office blocks for office staff - with older police stations to be sold off.

Rationalisation

The plans follow a service review by Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown that identified around 150m in potential savings.

It found "a great deal of duplication in the organisation", Sir Ian said.

The number of officers involved in intelligence and performance monitoring is to be cut, and 135 human resources and finance departments rationalised.

Sir Ian said: "All of this is about moving people and money from support service to front line service."




SEE ALSO:
Profile: Sir Ian Blair
22 Aug 05 |  UK
Met police to text crime alerts
16 Aug 05 |  London


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