One of the country’s most outspoken supporters of police reform was today given a top job by Boris Johnson.
Blair Gibbs, the head of crime and justice at right wing think tank Policy Exchange, has provoked angry protests from rank and file officers by describing himself as one of the “Four horsemen of the police reform apocalypse” and advocating a series of controversial changes.
He has also described police working practices as “outdated”, attacked high sickness rates, and suggested that the best detectives rarely get top jobs because, unlike their senior colleagues, they are too busy catching criminals rather than promotion.
But he was appointed today to work at City Hall alongside the Mayor and policing supremo Stephen Greenhalgh as the Met prepares for a huge shake up designed to cope with a £243 million gap in its budget.
Announcing the move today, Mr Gibbs said that he wanted to help Mr Johnson cut crime and deliver efficient and effective policing.
He added: “This is an exciting opportunity at a challenging time for London’s police and criminal justice agencies. I’m looking forward to helping deliver the Mayor’s commitments to Londoners.”
Mr Gibbs, who will be “principal adviser” at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, made his “Four Horsemen” comment in a tweet and later described the remark as a “tongue in cheek” joke.
But it caused a furious reaction from Police Federation leaders who accused him of making “ill-judged” comments at a sensitive time, while warning that Mr Gibbs, rather than ministers, appeared to be in charge of the Government’s police reform agenda.
Mr Gibbs has said that he believes that there is much “talent, grit and passion” in the police, but that he remains an “unapologetic” advocate of reform because of the “outdated” structure within which officers work.
Changes that he has advocated include a purge on police bureaucracy, more efficient working practices, and the recruitment of talented outsiders into senior police jobs.
His appointment comes as the Met and the Mayor continue to draw up plans to save £500 million by 2015 as part of the Government’s purge on public spending.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary expressed concern about the state of the Met’s finances earlier this year, saying that the force was adrift it its planning and still had a £243 million gap in its budget that it had so far failed to address.