The writer is formerly commander of the Metropolitan Police and chief of staff of the Devon and Cornwall Police
As a former police chief, I was appalled by revelations last week of widespread bullying, deviant behavior, homophobia and racism by some police officers. The agency is based at the Charing Cross Police Department. Immediately following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a Metropolitan police officer, and allegations that two officers shared pictures of black murder victims, this is deeply shameful. I was hoping that, after landmark reports like Scarman’s investigation into the policy investigation of the Brixton riots in the eighties and Macpherson’s investigation into the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence , there will be lessons learned. However, London mayor Sadiq Khan this week said the current problems are “deeper” than at the time of Macpherson’s report.
I have personal experience of abuses in the Met. In 1991, after only 18 months in the force, I filed a complaint about officers planting evidence on a young black man. Supervisors turned a blind eye to my accusations, and I was bullied by colleagues who wanted me to keep quiet. In the end, I sought the advice of a commanding officer whose support prevented me from leaving the army. The officers involved were eventually arrested, charged with perverting the law, and tried at the Old Bailey, where they were found not guilty. As far as I know, nothing has been done to address the behavior I have witnessed.
Police culture is important to all of us. While officers in the US and most of Europe carry guns, those in the UK pride themselves on the principle of policing with consent. If the public trusts the police, they will more likely to cooperate with them. This consent is subject to actual conditions; When the police behave badly, as they did at Charing Cross, cooperation is withdrawn and suspicions grow until the entire fragile structure is rebuilt.
Unfortunately, research shows that the culture of policing on the front lines of assault and bullying has evolved as a response to the pressures faced by employees: danger and social isolation. . It’s a culture that can foster misplaced loyalty and secrecy. It is not enough for police leaders to simply pursue the “half-eaten apple”. The Independent Office of Police Conduct report on Charing Cross highlights deeper structural weaknesses such as poor oversight, isolated police squads and no safe way to report firsthand. capacity.
In 1999, when Scotland Yard director Sir Paul Condon accepted Macpherson’s findings that the Met was racist, this unraveled after years of defence. At the time, I was commander of the Kensington and Chelsea area, and witnessed first-hand the dramatic reforms to officer culture. At Notting Hill, the act of admitting the problem, apologizing, and rebuilding trust has had a hugely positive impact. I’m proud of our response, but as Doreen and Neville Lawrence have said, it’s not enough. It has come too late for their son, Stephen, and all too soon, to be seen as something historic is no longer relevant – a view given recent examples of shocking behaviour. of the police proved to be false.
Perhaps the most successful cultural change was achieved through the introduction of a neighborhood policing policy in 2005, which made officers directly accountable to their local communities. This has completely changed their behavior and outlook, but the cultural gains have been marred by the reduction in police numbers, which disproportionately affects neighboring regional forces.
History tells us that the scale and entrenched nature of Scotland Yard’s affairs are beyond the reach of individual commissioners. Current director Cressida Dick will step down after much criticism. But permanent change in the Met will require a long-term plan and one to which successive commissioners are obligated to commit. This means the Home Office and the mayor of London will have to look into it. Many would say that I was naive to even imagine this could happen. I really hope I’m not.
This article has been updated since publication following the announcement of Cressida Dick’s resignation as Metropolitan Police Commissioner