In spite of lobbying of the Home Office by all the Royal Parks’ Friends, MPs and The Royal Parks agency, funding for the Royal Parks police is being cut severely. The funding bid to the Home Office was for £8.8m, which is the current costs, The Home Office has awarded only £6.8m for this coming year (2015-16) – a cut of 23%.
The 23% reduction in funding is equivalent to a reduction in the number of officers in all the Royal Parks from 105 to 81 and in Richmond Park from 9 to 7. Ten years ago there were 165 officers in all the Royal Parks and 15-16 in Richmond Park, so we have lost more than half our police force in that time, while visitor numbers and crime have increased. The Friends of Richmond and of Bushy Parks will be discussing with The Royal Parks, the Metropolitan Police and local MPs how we can retain adequate policing in the Park. Thank you again to all of those who wrote to the Home Office and MPs; we’re sorry the result is not better.
You can read the letter from FRP to Mike Penning, the Policing Minister, asking for the full £8.8m grant, in the downloadable PDF below.
How Royal Parks policing works
Policing of the Royal Parks is provided by the Metropolitan Police (MPS) with a dedicated Operational Command Unit (OCU) of about 105 officers, headquartered in Hyde Park. Richmond Park has a team of 8 officers and 1 sergeant, which translates into 2 officers on duty per shift. The policing is funded by a ten-year special grant from the Home Office that was set up in 2004 when the old Royal Parks Constabulary, which reported to The Royal Parks management, was transferred to the MPS.
The ten years are now up and the grant is being reviewed as part of the government’s overall review of spending. Since 2004 the special grant has been cut steadily and police numbers reduced 35% from 160 to 105. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which oversees the police in London, made a bid to the Home Office in September for £8.8m a year, which is the current cost of the Royal Parks OCU.
Policing in Richmond Park
Richmond Park, with its wildlife, fragile ecology and SSSI status, has very different policing requirements from other areas of London.
The core policing task is ‘environmental policing’, that is policing breaches of Park regulations, which is at least 75% of the policing requirement. Crime and disorder – the focus of the MPS in the rest of London – are low.
The Park particularly needs high policing levels at weekends, when visitor numbers can be very high, and lower during the rest of the week. It also needs high policing in summer and low in winter. We estimate 60% of the overall policing requirement is on weekends and bank holidays between April and September, which are only 15% of the days.
The requirement for environmental policing means that the police need to patrol frequently on foot or by bike or buggy, not by car. Police priorities, targets, recruitment, training and culture should support environmental policing
The present policing model does not meet these requirements:
• The shift pattern of two officers on duty does not vary by season or day of the week. Recently, some extra shifts have been added on bank holidays, but this is marginal.
• ‘Abstraction’ of officers to central London parks, usually for Guard Change or big events, is common – maybe 10% overall, but 25% at week-ends, just when the Park’s need is greatest.
• Officers tend to stay near their cars because they need to respond quickly to emergency calls; they rarely patrol on foot or bike now.
• The priorities, targets, recruitment, training and culture are the same as the rest of the MPS. Targets are crime-focused and so cover only 5-10% of what the police do in the Park.
As a result of these problems, the present policing model is not delivering results and there is a big risk of a steady deterioration in public behavior and in the fabric of our Park.
We and the Friends of Bushy Park, who have similar problems, are working together to make TRP, the MPS, MOPAC, MPs and others aware of our different policing requirements and the problems we face. You can read our briefing paper sent to all these bodies in the PDF below. We are working on proposals for improvement that we will share with members at a later stage and we may need your support for the proposals then.
The full FRP/FBP briefing paper on policing in Richmond and Bushy Parks is available as a downloadable PDF below.
We sent the text on this page to our 2500 members as an insert in our Autumn newsletter sent out on 5 November.