The Metropolitan Police has been described as “institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic” in a searing new report, published Tuesday, filled with harrowing testimonies.
The Mayor of London, who has oversight of Britain’s largest police force, has described it as one of the darkest days in its history.
Discrimination is baked into Britain’s largest police force – a space where predatory behaviour has been “allowed to flourish”, according to Baroness Casey of Blackstock. Casey, a crossbench peer and former victims’ commissioner, who spent 14 months conducting an independent review of the Met’s culture and standards of behaviour in the aftermath of the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met PC Wayne Couzens.
Her 360 page review is filled with distressing evidence.
The “de-prioritisation and de-specialisation” of public protection – in areas like child protection and rape – is failing women and children, she concluded. Many swabs from victims of sexual violence are being kept in half-broken fridges, some so overfilled they require three officers to close them, compromising vital evidence. In one case, an officer contaminated a fridge full of evidence by leaving his lunchbox in it, symptomatic of a wider careless attitude towards rape victims within the force.
The force cannot even police itself. Casey’s damming evidence exposes widespread bullying and a catalogue of suffering experienced by female, gay, black and Asian officers. Testimonies include a Muslim officer discovering colleagues had placed bacon in his boots, a Sikh officer having his turban chucked in a shoebox and officers calling their black colleague “gate monkey.”
Junior staff are subjected to humiliating initiation tests, with some female officers being forced to eat whole cheesecakes until they vomited and a male officer being sexually assaulted in the showers as part of his initiation.
Casey identified the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command – where both Couzens and serial rapist David Carrick worked – as a “dark corner of the Met” where some of the most deeply misogynistic behaviour occurs. This, alongside the Specialist Firearms Command, she added, should be “effectively disbanded”.
More generally, she recommended that if the Metropolitan Police fails to undergo drastic reform, it should be broken up into more manageable units.
Casey’s review is almost certainly the most damaging for the force since the Macpherson Report, commissioned almost quarter of a century ago following the murder of teenager Steven Lawrence, which concluded that the Met was institutionally racist. Its stark findings suggest the supposedly radical overhaul promised back then has failed. Notably, even the Prime Minister refused to say today whether his two young daughters could trust the police.
Yet, while the report has exposed the sheer extent of the rot, it offers less by way of solutions, and begs the question, how much would breaking up the police force really achieve?
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary
Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has said he doesn’t think “breaking [it] up into smaller units is the change we need,” suggesting it would be better to focus on improving the vetting system for officers. Sir Mark Rowley, the head of the Metropolitan Police, agrees. While he accepts the report’s “diagnosis” of racism, misogyny and homophobia in his force – and acknowledges this isn’t just about individuals, but rather “systemic failings” – there are risks, he warns, that renaming departments could just become a “branding exercise.”
Another conclusion of Casey’s was that the Met has been “disfigured by austerity”, with 126 police stations closing over 12 years and neighbourhood policing decimated. The report comes as the government is struggling to meet its pledge to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers by the end of this month. However, the shocking testimonies risk perpetuating the Met’s problem by making it that bit harder to recruit the type of officers who could help to turn the force around.
Rowley himself acknowledges this problem today, and offered a plea to alarmed would-be candidates: “Please step forward, because we need good people.”
Write to us with your comments to be considered for publication at email@example.com