Met police found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic – Now what?

The Baroness Casey Review into the Met Police makes for very grim reading for all Londoners. The contents outline some horrific attitudes and behaviours towards minorities, women and LGBTQ+ people across the city it polices as well as within its own ranks. Baroness Casey has simply held a mirror up to this organisation and stated very clearly this has to change.

What makes reading the report even more depressing is that these same issues within the Met were identified back in 1999 in another independent review – the MacPherson report. This report only arose from years of campaigning by the Lawrence family seeking justice for their son Stephen. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in Eltham in 1993. The Macpherson report concluded the investigation into Stephen’s murder was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”

I grew up in Lewisham in a ‘tough neighbourhood’ not far from Eltham within miles of the racist attitudes that prevailed at the time. My local pub, the Golden Lion, was the scene of the unsolved Daniel Morgan murder in 1987. Daniel’s family still wait for a justice that may never come and can only take some comfort the  Independent Panel enquiry they campaigned for established the Met was “institutionally corrupt” and  Britain’s biggest police force engaged in “the denial of the failings in investigation, including a failure to acknowledge professional incompetence, individual’s venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures”

The Baroness Casey Review may feel like a step change. However, it is simply repeating the same observations and recommendations from the Macpherson Report and the Daniel Morgan Panel. The behaviours and attitudes identified have existed in the Met for decades.  “Met officers are 82% White and 71% male, and the majority do not live in the city they police. As such, the Met does not look like the majority of Londoners” say the report. All Liberal Democrats in London need to demand this changes. Speak up for women, minorities and LGBTQ+ people who must hear that we all expect the police to do better for them. Young black men’s experience of policing today should not be tolerated by anyone. Media interest will move on to some other story and senior police leaders may once again start to back slide on introducing the fundamental reforms recommended.

Local communities need liberal values restored, introduced and upheld within our police. We have much work to do. This will be a very big challenge for our community activists and leaders for many years to come. One positive piece outcome is The Baroness Casey Review has exposed failings in the relationship between the Met and Local Councils too.The weakening of this relationship, she argues, has led to a Met which is more and more disconnected from local areas and communities. The Met’s reorganisations were not supported by the communities they served but they proceeded with them anyway (institutional arrogance being another failing) .

Here’s a few of the problems Liberal Councillors and community leaders need to take a lead on. Right now the Met needs a lot of ‘critical friends’ to help build community partnerships. 

Accountability 

  • For many years, the Met frontline was organised by borough. In 2018, it changed to a system of “Basic Command Units” (BCU), covering multiple boroughs, to save money
  • This increased scale “inevitably makes the work harder to do well, as officers at strategic and operational levels have less time and ability to work with partners.”
  • The report finds “Most local authorities we spoke to had noted the distance between themselves and their BCU Commander grow”
  • BCU Commanders are “largely disconnected from local authority partners… the speed with which local senior police officers move off to new jobs also undermines many relationships. No one locally is… consulted about these key BCU changes”
  • Casey recommends that “A new borough based approach should be put in place, building on the positive introduction of new dedicated Borough Superintendents”
  • She also notes “investment by London Boroughs in crime prevention has fallen in the last decade”, which with the BCU reorganisation doubly weakens local partnerships

Transparency

  • Casey finds that “Existing structures [like Community Safety Partnerships or safer neighbourhood boards] do not provide a clear way for local authorities and their residents to hold the Met to account”
  • She emphasises the need for more transparency to elected officials – the Met must “explain their decisions and the reasons for them”

Specialists

  • Particularly concerning is the impunity with which specialist teams, like the Violent Crime Task Force & Territorial Support Group (focused on public order) operate
  • BCU Commanders have essentially no control over these London wide teams, and the specialists often don’t bother communicating with them or replying to their emails
  • In one case, it took a BCU 11 working days to find out what happened after receiving a complaint about the Violent Crime Task Force pinning down a black ten year old
  • Local officers say the specialists “parachute in” with little understanding or concern for local communities, which can undo years of trust building work by local forces
  • The report advises empowering BCU commanders to be able to account for the actions of specialist units

 

  • Based on policing reforms in Northern Ireland, Casey emphasised five necessary types of accountability to be implemented:
    •  Democratic accountability – elected representatives can tell police what sort of service they want, and hold the police accountable for delivering it  
    • Transparency – the community is kept informed, and can ask questions, about what the police are doing and why  
    • Legal accountability – police are held to account if they misuse their powers 
    • Financial accountability – the police service is audited and held to account for its delivery of value for public money
    • Internal accountability – officers are accountable within a police organisation.

In Kingston I was invited to meet with our Borough Commander – Clair Kelland and Senior Inspectors working across Kingston the day the report was published along with other Councillors. I could only confirm to her that the issues identified by Baroness Casey in relation to working with communities and Councils were the exact same ones experienced by myself and colleagues. As Councillor’s for a town centre (Kingston Town) with the highest crime rate in the borough we have 23 dedicated police officers of varying ranks working in our community. Partnership with the community was clearly low on the agenda judging by the unanswered emails to requests for meetings and our efforts to build relationships with senior officers met with indifference.

As always the Tories have had a big hand in creating some of the operational issues facing the Met. “Its spending levels are now around £700 million, or 18%, lower in real terms than they were ten years ago, enough to recruit 9,600 extra officers” says Baroness Casey.  And Labour’s Mayor has been criticised in her report for his part in creating “a dysfunctional relationship”  between the Met and MOPAC (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime).

The Baroness Casey Review is an important piece of work and brutally honest. It does offer a path to better and fairer policing in London. Let’s make sure the road leads to liberal, fair and just policing for all Londoners. How the Met will be accountable to London’s communities will be an important issue when the London Assembly elections campaigns begin later this year.

* John Sweeney is a LibDem Councillor in Kingston Upon Thames for Kingston Town Ward.

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This entry was posted in Local government, London and Op-eds.
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3 Comments

  • Mel Borthwaite 27th Mar '23 - 1:28pm

    It is interesting to consider whether it is better for met officers to ‘look like the majority of Londoners’ or to look like those who are responsible for the majority of crimes in London. Since men are responsible for most crime, including most of the particularly violent and serious crimes, there is a logic to men being a majority of the met officers even when a majority of Londoners are female. (As an aside, though perhaps still relevant to my point, men are also more likely to be victims of crimes.)

  • Jenny Barnes 27th Mar '23 - 1:34pm

    One of the many problems with the Met is that as well as policing london it contains a number of specialist units. The TSG is mentioned above, sounds like a new name for the infamous SPG. But there are other country wide specialist units, firearms egs. These should all be removed from the Met and given a separate structure, reporting to the home office. The actual london policing functions could be one or several serarate structures, reporting to the London Mayor, I suppose. Both or all of these organisations should start from ground zero, inviting applications from the existing Met, but with seriously enhanced vetting. While that goes on, the neigbouring police forces – Surrey, Thames Valley, Kent, Essex, Cambridge, & Bedford could police a chunk of London each. Or maybe that would be a good permanent solution.

  • Robin Stafford 28th Mar '23 - 2:42pm

    An excellent summary thank you John, which I’ve shared with others.
    My biggest concern is not so much what Casey’s report has exposed – which those affected have been pointing out for years. It’s that nothing has changed in the Met since Macpherson, whilst Society as a whole, though far from perfect, has moved on a long way.
    It’s that that suggests that these really are Institutional problems, deeply embedded in the culture and behaviour of the Met. Depressing that the new commissioner denied that description.

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