Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Officers 'should walk beat alone'

Metropolitan police on patrol in the West End in London
About a half of the Met's 31,000 officers routinely patrol the streets

Police officers in London should walk the beat on their own and not in pairs, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said.

Sir Paul Stephenson believes single patrols would make officers more approachable and effectively double the number of patrols.

It has been standard practice for the past 20 years for officers to usually walk with a partner.

The Metropolitan Police Federation said it was concerned for officers' safety.

In an address to 2,000 staff and officers, Sir Paul, Britain's most senior policeman, said: "The public, politicians, police authority, everybody you speak to, cannot understand why police officers don't patrol on their own any more, and on occasions neither do I."

'Feel safer'

He added: "We must be the visible uniformed governance on the street. The way in which we engage with the public is hugely important.

"I want our public to feel that if there's uniform from the Met they are there because they want to engage them and make them feel safer."

Although police numbers nationwide have reached the record level of 141,000, many people feel there are fewer bobbies on the beat than 30 years ago when the total number of police was closer to 100,000.


About a half of the Met's 31,000 officers routinely patrol the streets.

Some already carry out their patrols alone but Sir Paul wants more to do so.

He told the BBC that the Met had been "insufficiently discerning" when deciding how many officers to send on patrol.

"The default position should be single patrolling," Sir Paul said.

"Where there is a reason to double up or triple up, that reason should be justified."

He added: "I want to make the best use of the public's money."

'Risk factors'

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth told the BBC: "Sir Paul has mentioned this before and there is some benefit in it, but there are also problems with it and it is not clear how far he wants to push it.

"I think our members will be a bit concerned about the safety aspect of it. Quite clearly they feel safer in pairs, particularly on night duty and in particular areas."

Under Sir Paul's plan some officers, including trainees, will continue to patrol in pairs "to ensure officer safety".

Officers in response cars will continue to work in pairs as will armed officers.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Whether officers patrol singly or in pairs is a matter for local operational decision, which should take account of relevant risk factors."

A total of 15 police officers have died while on duty in the UK since 1999.

This included London special constable Nisha Patel-Nasri, who was murdered by her husband Fadi Nasri outside their Wembley home in May 2006.

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