Meeting the man from the Met – after 111 emails!

Outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe spoke to the whole of Year 10 on his much-awaited visit to QE.

Sir Bernard, who announced in September 2016 that he was planning to retire this February, not only delivered a wide-ranging talk in a special lecture, he then stayed and happily answered boys’ queries in an extensive question-and-answer session.

His visit came thanks to the persistence of one sixth-former, Adrian Burbie, former president of QE’s Politics Society. "When I first emailed Sir Bernard in March 2016, inviting him to QE, I never expected him to take me up on my offer. One hundred and eleven emails and ten months of planning later, I was glad to see that the event was a success.”

Headmaster Neil Enright thanked Sir Bernard for his visit: “His inspiring personal story and insightful thoughts on policing in London gave our boys considerable food for thought. I am especially grateful that he was so generous with his time, responding patiently to the boys’ many questions.”

""Sir Bernard told the boys that he had left school with A-level grades that were not good enough for university. He worked in an NHS laboratory for a few years, but found the routine boring. He found his métier when he joined South Yorkshire Police, where he was identified as a ‘high-flyer’ and sent to Merton College, Oxford, to study Law. He later gained a PhD in Applied Criminology from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

Sir Bernard rose through the ranks of the South Yorkshire force and, subsequently, of Merseyside Police, before he was appointed Metropolitan Police Commissioner in 2011 – a post regarded as the highest police position in the UK. He was knighted in the 2013 New Year’s Honours list for services to policing.

""“No city has more influence than London,” Sir Bernard told his Year 10 audience, but added that its diversity and the pace of change – including 1 million new people in the last ten years – create challenges. He rehearsed some of the issues involved in policing a large metropolis, including the emergence of modern crimes which are harder than conventional ones to prevent, such as cyber-crime, hi-tech fraud and child grooming on the internet. However, he pointed to successes, too, including falling rates of murder, burglary and other ‘conventional’ crimes in the capital.

Eighteen years after Sir William Macpherson described the Met as ‘institutionally racist’ in his report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Sir Bernard reflected on the position today, concluding that the real barometer of whether the force is still institutionally racist or not is whether people perceive it to be so.  Since people did still perceive institutional racism, he had been seeking to improve the racial diversity of the police force in order to restore the confidence minority communities had in it.

""Sir Bernard said he felt that the Met’s failure to clamp down on the first day of the London riots in 2011 had contributed to the riots spreading on the following days as opportunists joined in.

After highlighting the role of the Met in policing not only London, but organising nationwide counter-terrorism operations and security for the Government, Sir Bernard encouraged the boys to think about a career in the Met if they enjoyed meeting people and gaining new experiences. Hard work and being a team player were crucial to success in the police and qualities he looks for, he said. Flexibility was important, too: “Never say ‘that’s not my job’.” And he added that leadership in the police, as in any large organisations, was about “explaining clearly what you stand for”.

Thanking Sir Bernard for his visit, Adrian, of Year 13, said: "Judging from the sheer volume of questions, the pupils enjoyed the opportunity to ‘grill’ such a high-profile figure, and it was good of him to devote so much time to answering them so diligently."