Top Hackney cop moves on to get the force out of special measures

Hackney and Tower Hamlets borough commander Marcus Barnett (left), who is moving on to overhaul the Met

Hackney and Tower Hamlets borough commander Marcus Barnett (left), who is moving on to help bring the Met out of special measures - Credit: Julia Gregory, LDRS

By anyone’s standards, outgoing Hackney and Tower Hamlets borough commander Marcus Barnett has had a challenging time since taking on the role in 2019.

During the pandemic, he’s had three bouts of Covid – which affected his lungs and liver – and two of shingles, while working in what he calls “one of the toughest jobs in London”.

His stint has also been marked by controversy, including calls for him to step down when the Child Q scandal emerged.

Barnett is now set to join the team working with new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to help get the force out of special measures.

His deputy, Mike Hamer, is stepping up to lead the borough command unit (BCU) for the foreseeable future.

Mr Barnett’s new role will be to look at frontline and community policing and call handling to improve the service.

He believes he is well suited to it: “I’ve worked on a BCU which has been one of the toughest in London.

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"It’s one of the toughest jobs in policing in the UK and I’ve delivered good performance overall.

“I’ve delivered improvements, I’ve delivered strong relationships with partners and I’m also very aware and very live to the real challenges and issues that face policing.”

The force has been hit by a series of scandals in recent times, including the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer and the Met’s handling of a vigil that followed.

There was also the revelation that some officers at a central London police station were exchanging offensive messages, as well as the jailing of two officers who shared photos of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.

In Hackney, there were calls for Mr Barnett to resign when it emerged that two officers strip-searched a Black teenager, known as Child Q, at her school whilst she was on her period, and without a responsible adult present – something he said should never have happened.

It led to protests outside Stoke Newington police station and at Hackney Town Hall.

Mr Barnett said what happened to Child Q was “regrettable”, and that a lot of work has gone into training officers following the incident. The Independent  Office for Police Conduct is still investigating what went wrong.

This spring, hundreds of people gathered to prevent an immigration arrest in Dalston. It led to an ongoing investigation after footage emerged of police allegedly hitting a man on the ground, officers getting hurt, and couriers saying they are fed up of “excessive policing”.

Mr Barnett said: “By and large you’ve got the community’s support and we’ve got to keep coming into work. We’ve got to keep going out there and policing because, frankly, the public have no one else to turn to.”

He pointed to improved trust and confidence ratings in Hackney.

“There’s a definite improvement because we’ve listened around stop and search,” he said. “We do less, but we have proper outcomes.”

He highlighted the work of officers “who put their lives on the line”.

HE said some of his biggest achievements were in tackling drugs and trafficking, driving down gang crime and county lines, getting more town centre policing in Shoreditch, and drops in burglary, antisocial behaviour and violence.

However, knife crime is increasing this year, and injuries to under-25s are also going up.

Violence with injury rose by 12 per cent in the year to March, from 2,417 cases to 2,704.

Mr Barnett said it is “not unusual” to see young people “involved in serious violence”.

He urged communities “to step up and speak out”, adding: “It cannot be right that we end up going to calls on estates on the BCU where you’ve got 12 and 14-year-old children running around, terrorising residents with noise, baseball bats and goodness knows what else.”

While there are challenges to come, he said: “I love these boroughs. I think they are amazing. They are full of diversity. They are full of people that need and deserve fantastic policing, and I do think by and large the policing team that we have got here is amazing.”