Bernie Gravett features in the news on Buzzfeed

Bernie Gravett was inteviewed by former Independent reporter Emily Duggan now working for Buzzfeed the online news outlet. See the full article at https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilydugan/this-former-police-commander-says-cu...

The report states:

A former Metropolitan police commander, who led the team that unravelled the failed 21/7 bomb plot in London, says community policing cuts have made it harder to prevent terrorist attacks like London Bridge.

Bernie Gravett, who was divisional commander of Westminster police for the Met, told BuzzFeed News the community policing units essential in finding the bombers in July 2005 had been cut from teams of five to just a single constable.

He was one of several former senior police officers who spoke to BuzzFeed News about the devastating impact that budget cuts are having on forces’ ability to prevent terrorism.

The fact is that Police force budgets have been cut by 25% since 2010 and police numbers have fallen by over 20%. That's 20,000 fewer officers in England and Wales.

The article goes on toe say '

But Gravett, who is now a policing consultant after retiring in 2011, said the cuts to police budgets “clearly have an impact on the ability to proactively police” and prevent terrorism.

He added: “You’re having police forces completely restructured at a cost to community policing. Because the numbers are falling so much, they’re having to restructure to keep officers on the front line. Neighbourhood police teams are the sufferer.

“A classic case is the terror attack at the weekend. Who’s in the community and working with it to provide somebody who’s collecting community intelligence?

“Someone responding to a 999 call, they don’t have time to sit down with the public and have a cup of tea. They don’t have time to talk to people on the streets.

“We’re losing proper patrols and neighbourhood engagement and it’s from that level of engagement where you collect information about problems within the community. Community policing used to be the bedrock of English policing and it’s a model we’ve sold around the world, but that’s the policing we’re losing because of the cuts.”

Police community support officers (PCSOs) have also been drastically reduced, going from 16,814 to 10,551 in the same period. In London, the fall in PCSOs has been even more dramatic, going from 4,607 to 1,487 under Theresa May, according to the PCS Union.

Gravett said that when he was chief inspector at Marylebone in the early 2000s, neighbourhood policing teams were so strong that officers manned a stand inside the Central London Mosque at every Friday prayers to build relationships. “They could listen to issues raised in the Muslim community. When I wanted to know what was going on in the mosque I would go to my neighbourhood policing team,” Gravett said.

Now community policing has been cut to almost nothing, he argues. “Every neighbourhood policing team at that time had a sergeant, two police constables, and three police community support officers and I had the ability to bolster teams if I wanted to. Now there’d be one constable, no sergeant, and no leadership."

Gravett said that PCSOs were a big part of intelligence gathering and building trust in the community.

“The bombers of 21/7, they were identified by one of my PCSOs. The entire team of bombers was identified by a PCSO who had dealt with a fight on Oxford Street between one of the bombers and a member of the Jewish community.

“When the Met published the photos of the four bombers fleeing the scene because their backpacks didn’t go bang, he ID’d the one and then we looked at the intelligence and found the others.

“That PCSO role no longer exists, so it won’t happen again. There’s a clear case for you that community policing is the start of everything. It comes down to money and cuts.”

Gravett also warned that changes to training and recruitment would damage the police’s ability to tackle serious terror incidents.

“Originally policemen got six months' training delivered by police officers – until about five years ago. What aspiring police officers do now is an online course by private trainers… You get a certificate and then you can apply to work. It varies from police force to police force but some then do 12 weeks' training and some 19 weeks.

“The reality is the quality is not the same as getting six months' intense training by police officers who’ve done the job before. Then you’ve got direct entry – don’t even start me on that.

“There’s no way on earth a direct-entry superintendent who’s been working in private industry could’ve managed the incident this weekend or the one in Manchester. It takes 20 years of hard graft and learning to become a superintendent.

“It’s not just numbers, it’s the other changes that cuts have forced upon us. We’ve completely changed the way we recruit people that will impact on our operational capability in five to ten years' time."

The speed of response at London Bridge will not be sustainable, Gravett argues, because officers were on extra overtime in the wake of the Manchester attack.

“I’m exceedingly proud of the response that was managed in London this weekend,” he said. “From the 999 call to when the terrorists were shot was eight minutes. But that’s not sustainable because the police who were on duty this weekend were on overtime. Since Manchester there’s extra cops on the street to reassure the public. Police officers have been put on 12-hour shifts and overtime.”

He said London had been more protected from the cuts but that elsewhere in the country the picture is far worse. “We should have gone from 32,000 to 27,000 [officers] if London had implemented the cut, but Boris Johnson said ‘Not on my watch' – and Sadiq Khan has said the same.”

Khan, the mayor of London, warned back in January that if the government continued to underfund the police it would put Londoners at risk.