The head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has admitted that it was a risk to allow BBC1 access to his force’s work in a new fly-on-the-wall documentary.
The Metropolitan Police commissioner today said that he knew his officers could face embarrassment after allowing cameras to film their work for more than a year.
The team behind the new series The Met: Policing London was allowed full and unfettered access to key operational areas, with scenes showing drug busts and the arrest of suspects of gun crime and murder.
“If we didn’t let them in we could be accused of being closed. If we do [let them in] we could get hit. We might still get hit. But I hope people will make a good judgment of the people I lead.”
The first episode, which will be shown next week, shows reactions from the police and public to the inquest into the killing by police officer of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in 2011. The shooting triggered the worst riots in recent history and the programme shows officers inside New Scotland Yard deciding how to respond to last year’s inquest verdict that Duggan’s killing was lawful.
Hogan-Howe said he gave permission for the access because “if you believe what I believe that the people I lead are good people” then “censorship” was not an option.
“The people in it will speak for themselves. I don’t believe in censorship.”
The BBC maintained full editorial control of the whole series, he added.
Asked by RadioTimes.com at a press conference whether the police asked for retrospective deletion of sensitive material, he said that the Met only made suggestions based on legal grounds because they could jeapordise court cases or put officers or the public in danger.
“Two area were off-limits – counter terrorism and diplomatic protection [the unit which protects VIPs such as politicians and Royalty]. You have got privacy issues to think about.”
In the first episode, Hogan-Howe is shown making an arrest himself as he patrols the London streets giving an interview and spots a cab driver claiming that his fare had absconded without paying.
The suspect was arrested, eventually went to court and was given a conditional discharge. But the series shows the force tackling far more serious crimes.
Hogan-Howe became commissioner of the Met in 2011. His two predecessors – Sir Ian Blair and Sir Paul Stephenson – resigned before completing their terms at a force which employs more than 45,000 people.
However, the decision to allow the BBC access appears to have paid off as Met bosses appear comfortable with the series.
Senior Met officers have already seen the five-part series and a promotional poster for the documentary was put up this week in the main entrance area at Scotland Yard’s central London headquarters.
The Met: Policing London begins on BBC1 on Monday June 8th at 9pm