London’s Metropolitan police is guilty of “institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia” and should be broken up if it cannot effect a complete overhaul, according to one of the most damning ever reviews of a British police force.
Baroness Louise Casey was commissioned by the Met to investigate the culture within Britain’s largest police force after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving officer, in 2021.
Following an interim review in October, Baroness Casey’s final report published on Tuesday laid bare severe institutional defects underpinned by a culture of denial, which she described as the “single biggest barrier to fixing them”.
Baroness Casey found that the Met was guilty of racism, misogyny and sexism both in the way officers and staff were treated inside the organisation and in the way communities were policed. It was failing women and children, failing to protect the public from police officers who abused women and was unable to police itself, she concluded.
Calling for a complete overhaul to restore the trust of Londoners, Baroness Casey said the Met, without change, should be stripped of its national functions including oversight of counter-terrorism.
“Everyone within the Met ... now needs to recognise that its failings go well beyond the actions of ‘bad apple’ officers,” she wrote. “On top of the unimaginable crimes of individuals and the shocking series of events that have hit the service in recent years, the way in which the Met has responded to them is also a symptom of a wider malaise in an organisation that has fundamentally lost its way.”
[ Couzens given whole-life sentence for kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard ]
The Met could no longer presume, she said, that it had the consent of the people of London – fundamental to the British model of policing since the 19th century – to police them.
Sir Mark Rowley, who took the helm in September last year, has been under intense pressure to restore the integrity of and confidence in the force after a string of scandals.
The latest saw David Carrick last month sentenced to at least 30 years in prison for raping and sexually abusing 12 women over 17 years. Carrick and Couzens served together in the Diplomatic and Parliamentary Protection Unit (DPPU) – which Baroness Casey identified as a “dark corner” of the force.
The Met, the review found, was also unrepresentative of the capital. While 46 per cent of the population was from a black, Asian, or other ethnic minority background, 82 per cent of Met officers were white and 71 per cent male.
There was evidence of widespread bullying and discrimination against minority groups on the staff. “Female officers and staff routinely face sexism and misogyny,” it said.
The report highlighted the impact of budget cuts, with Met spending levels now about £700 million (€790 million) lower in real terms than they were in 2013 – an 18 per cent decline.
Despite vows from the force to prioritise curbing violence against women and girls, Baroness Casey said public protection teams had suffered the most severe reductions in support, with overstretched and inexperienced staff contending with “overstuffed, dilapidated or broken fridges to store evidence”.
“It rings hollow, doesn’t it, to say your top priority is violence against women and girls when ... they have trainee detectives carrying caseloads of 20 rapes,” Baroness Casey told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
The review called for the creation of a dedicated women’s protection service, a new children’s strategy, and the reinstatement of sexual and domestic abuse services as specialist functions.
Other recommendations included the restoration of a visible police presence in neighbourhoods, and reform of misconduct procedures. The report also urged the Met to disband “dark corner” units.
[ UK police officer David Carrick a prolific predator who terrorised women ]
Responding to her report, Sir Mark said he was “under no illusions” about its significance and that he and his team would do “everything ... humanly possible” to implement its recommendations.
“These events have damaged the confidence of London in its police and caused us to look hard at ourselves,” he said, adding that the report must act as a catalyst for reform.
He acknowledged the “systemic” nature of discrimination within the Met but disagreed with Baroness Casey’s judgment that it was “institutionally” racist, misogynistic and homophobic.
Sir Mark also argued against breaking up the Met, saying the move risked causing more problems than it would fix in a “big, complex” city such as London. The DPPU, he said, could not be abolished overnight because of the nature of its work but he would be “radical and as rapid as possible” in transforming its culture.
[ If the police can’t be trusted, then where does that leave the police procedural? ]
London mayor Sadiq Khan said the report was “incredibly sad, one of the darkest days in the Met police’s history”. He added that it was important the government and Police Federation were not in denial about the findings of institutional racism, homophobia and misogyny. “If anybody doesn’t get it they don’t deserve to be in the police service or involved in policing,” he said.
Home secretary Suella Braverman said the Met had “much more to do” and that she would “continue to hold [Sir Mark] to account to deliver...wholesale change”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023