London's police set for change under new chief: Paul Condon has been appointed Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Heather Mills examines the implications for Scotland Yard and the capital

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The Independent Online
FEW DOUBT that within a couple of years the Metropolitan police force will have been shaken up, slimmed down and changed beyond recognition.

Paul Condon, who is to take over the country's most difficult policing job from Sir Peter Imbert in January, comes with a formidable reputation as a no-nonsense reformer.

Despite speculation that John Smith, the current Metropolitan deputy, or Sir Hugh Annesley, Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, were the front- runners for the job, senior police and Home Office sources suggested yesterday that Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, had no doubts about who he considered the best man for the post.

One senior colleague said: 'Quite frankly, no one else could touch him. There may be some who think they are in his league, but they are not.'

Although his promotion follows three years as Chief Constable of Kent, Mr Condon - at 45 one of the youngest officers ever to hold the post - is no stranger to Scotland Yard. All but six years of his 25-year career have been in the capital and he is already aware of the challenge he faces when he takes over responsibility for the pounds 2bn budget and 45,000 uniformed and civilian staff.

His goals - the same as those when he turned Kent from a backward force into one held up as a shining example by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Home Office - are simple: value for money and an enhanced service.

If Kent is to be his yardstick, that means major change - less middle management, more police on the streets and many more civilians carrying out all non-policing duty work. His focus of attention is the constable - the officer most in contact with the public and most aware of public opinion. By the end of his term, Scotland Yard headquarters in the heart of the capital is likely to house only senior police managers, a few squads whose tasks will cover the whole of the metropolitan area such as the flying squad, and those with a national responsibility such as the anti-terrorist branch.

Responsibilities such as traffic and personnel will be devolved to the capital's eight areas.

A contemporary said: 'Give him a year and then I think we will see some major movement of staff. I think there will be some very senior officers who for the first time will have to justify their positions and I think Mr Condon will want to see his own kind of officer in their place.'

Another said: 'There are officers in the Met who have jogged along on a job-for-life ticket; people who know the way the system works have in the past been untouchable.'

While Sir Peter is widely credited with introducing measures such as the Plus Programme that have started to change the lumbering culture of the Metropolitan Police, he was initially regarded as too nice to grasp the nettle.

One contempoary said: 'Some managers need to be loved and that can be a block to tackling head-on the job that needs to be done. Condon has no need of that.'

Those holding senior ranks in the Condon force are likely to have far more responsibility, not least for their own budgets.

'I do not think you will ever find out much about his personal life because that is simply the way,' a colleague who was asked for such details said.

Some have resented Mr Condon's methods and success - not least because he is the first product of Special Course fast stream promotion for graduates.

But as some of his policies - including his police charter - have been adopted by other forces he has earned respect and loyalty. A senior officer said: 'Everyone knows he has a formidable task. He will make some hard decisions and there will inevitably be resentment and bitter battles. But at the end of the day the Metropolitan police force will be a very exciting and dynamic place to work.'

Commons debate, page 7

(Photograph omitted)

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