A damning report about London police finds “institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia”

Triggered by outcry following cases of murder and rape involving officers of the Metropolitan Police of London, the Casey report found “institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia.” For the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, today is “one of the darkest days in the history” of the Met.

London Metropolitan police
Illustration | © Krzysztof Hepner

A damning report published on March 21 after a one-year review of the police of London “found institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia in the Met.”

The Metropolitan Police Service (the Met), the law enforcement for Greater London also called Scotland Yard after its headquarters, appointed last year Baroness Louise Casey to lead an independent review of its culture and standards of behavior. The audit, called the Casey Report, began in February 2022 and was completed in March 2023. It followed the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer that moved the entire country. Other troubling incidents also raised public concerns about the police.

Baroness Casey said she “found an organization that is essentially broken in its core purpose” after the report’s release. The review team talked to officers and staff and analyzed information, data, systems and operational performance to assess the Met’s culture and standards.

Today is without doubt one of the darkest days in the history of our almost 200 year old Met Police service,” said Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who asked for the review. In a written statement, he accepted the conclusions of institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia in police forces.

The Metropolitan police “failed to ensure the integrity of its officers”

In March 2021, Sarah Everard was abducted, raped and murdered by a serving Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police Officer now serving a life sentence. It sparked outrage and protests over the rates of violence against women.

In October 2021, a woman, outraged by the murder of Ms. Evrard, came forward and accused another Met police officer, David Carrick, of rape. Her case then empowered several women to speak out against Mr. Carrick. It revealed he has raped, sexually assaulted and abused women for 20 years.

It emerged that reports of assault, harassment and domestic abuse against Mr. Carrick had come to the attention of the Met and three other forces nine times but none led to criminal prosecution. In the summer of 2021, Mr. Carrick was accused of rape and arrested but the Met allowed him to continue working on restricted duties. Described in the report as “one of the country’s most prolific sex offenders,” he suddenly admitted 49 charges relating to 12 victims in December 2022.

“If you can’t trust the police to police themselves, to uphold their own standards, to not have criminals in their own ranks, and not just criminals but misconducts, when does that leave us, when put bluntly, a bloke with a warrant card shows you his card and says ‘Get in my car’?,” questioned Baroness Casey.

Baroness Casey of Blackstock is an independent advisor on social welfare, having worked for five prime ministers on issues like homelessness, child sexual exploitation and social integration. She used to be the commissioner for Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

The largest police force of the United Kingdom was once respected for its service and proximity but citizens’ trust in the police dropped in only a few years. Public confidence in the Met to do a good job locally has fallen from 70 percent in 2016 to a low of 45 percent in March 2022, according to the report. People from black and mixed ethnic groups have lower trust and confidence in the Met, but declining scores among white Londoners show that the gap is closing.

The Met “has failed over time to ensure the integrity of its officers.” And its internal issues affect both its workforce and the population.

97% march protest for women's rights in London
The 97% March in April 2021 in London, protesting for women’s rights. A survey conducted by UN Women UK found 97 percent of women aged 18 to 24 had been sexually harassed | © Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

Fridges in poor conditions destroying evidence. Instances of toxic management

Hit by austerity measures, the budget of the Met is 700 million pounds smaller (858 million dollars), or 18 percent in real terms, compared to the start of the previous decade. It would have been enough to recruit 9,600 extra officers.

Fridges and freezers to store evidence of sex crimes are in such bad shape that an officer “lost count” of the number of times she had asked a colleague where the necessary evidence was before being told it had been lost. Freezers containing evidence obtained from victims and survivors of sexual violence including swabs, blood, urine and underwear, would be so full it would take three officers to close them. One freezer broke down during the heatwave in 2022 and all of the evidence had to be destroyed because it could no longer be used.

But the problem of the Met is not so much about budget but more about its inadequate management, according to the Casey review.

The London police are “run as a set of disconnected and competing moving parts,” with a series of “uncoordinated and short-lived initiatives” with poor people management. Some officers are highly stressed, there is no support to develop good officers, whereas the police fail “to guard against those who seek power in order to abuse it.”

The Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command – which Mr. Couzens and Mr. Carrick served – is “a dark corner of the Met where poor behaviors can easily flourish.” The Met’s specialist firearms command has a “deeply troubling, toxic culture” where “men hold competitions on how often they can make their female students cry.”

And 12 percent of women in the Met said they had been harassed or attacked at work, and one-third experienced sexism.

A policewoman said her colleague would frequently touch her inappropriately on intimate parts of her body while she was getting changed in communal changing rooms and that reporting it to her sergeant didn’t change anything. Another female officer said she was a “victim of domestic and sexual abuse” by another officer, which escalated to rape on a number of occasions.

Internally, more than one in five staff and officers (22%) experienced bullying. An openly gay officer even said he was “scared of the police.”

Moreover, ethnic minority officers are more likely to experience discrimination, racism and bullying.

One Muslim officer had bacon stuffed in his boots, a Sikh officer had his beard cut (Sikhism forbids a man to have his hair and beard cut). Ethnic minority officers and staff experiencing racism at work “is routinely ignored” in an institution where “racism and racial bias are reinforced within Met systems.”

Minority ethnic officers were much more likely to be disciplined. According to the 363-page report, “clearly not everyone in the Met is racist, but there are racists and people with racist attitudes within the organization.”

It also affects the population as the Met “under-protects and over-polices Black Londoners.” One of the issues highlighted is the lack of diversity in the police force.

The Met doesn’t accept criticism

London’s population is more diverse than the rest of the United Kingdom. The majority of the people are not from white British ethnic backgrounds, one in five do not have English as their main language, and London has greater extremes of wealth and poverty than other parts of the UK.

On the other hand, London police officers don’t look like the majority of Londoners, the report noted. Most police officers don’t live in London and 82 percent are white and 71 percent are male. If recruitment continues on its current trajectory, police staff will only be gender balanced in 2053, and will be representative of present London’s ethnic diversity by 2061, the report assessed.

A spokeswoman from the Metropolitan Police Federation, the Met’s staff association representing all 30,000 officers, stated there was “no escaping the fact the police service has to improve to regain the trust and confidence of the public,” but also found not acceptable that “narrative in the media and from some police leaders and politicians over recent weeks that police officers should be guilty until proven innocent.” She also pointed out that the morale of officers is “plummeting, traumatized by the constant attacks to their proud profession.”

Andy George, the president of the National Black Police Association in the UK, said the Metropolitan Police Federation “fails to acknowledge the hurt and pain suffered by their members who bravely spoke up about the culture within the service.”

The report also criticized the Met for not accepting criticism, embracing of learning from its mistakes by adopting an attitude that no one outside the Met can understand the work’s special nature and unique demands. “This hubris has become a serious weakness.”

The new Met police chief since September, Sir Mark Rowley, admits there is a racism problem but rejects recognizing it’s institutional. “I’m not going to use a label myself that is both ambiguous and politicized.” The Casey Review “just redoubles my determination,” he said during a BBC morning TV show before laying out his key initiatives, such as involving more women in investigating sex crimes, improving service times, making stronger efforts to pursue London’s 500 most dangerous offenders, and equipping officers better.

I’m not going to sit in front of Londoners and say we are going to sort these things out overnight because that would lack credibility,” he added.

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