London police force should be overhauled or broken up, says review

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, her 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”.

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 abuse women and was unable to police itself, she concluded.

Calling for a complete overhaul to restore the trust of Londoners, 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.”

PC David Carrick was last month sentenced to at least 30 years in prison for raping and sexually abusing 12 women over 17 years © Shutterstock

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, and improve its dismal record in tackling crime 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 Casey identified as a “dark corner” of the force.

The force, 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% of Met officers were white and 71% male.

There was evidence of widespread bullying and discrimination against minority groups within the force. “Female officers and staff routinely face sexism and misogyny,” the report said.

The report also highlighted the impact of budget cuts, with Met spending now amounting about £700mn — an 18 per cent real-terms decline compared with 2013. Restructuring, it added, had led to the closure of 126 police stations in London.

Despite vows from the Met to make curbing violence against women and girls a priority, Casey said public protection teams had suffered the most severe reductions in support, with overstretched and inexperienced staff having to contend with “overstuffed, dilapidated or broken fridges to store evidence”.

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley: ‘These events have damaged the confidence of London in its police and caused us to look hard at ourselves’ © Aaron Chown/PA

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 and discriminatory recruitment processes. Casey also urged the Met to disband “dark corner” units.

Responding to her report, Rowley 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 Casey’s report must act as a catalyst for reform.

But he declined to endorse her judgment that the Met was not only institutionally racist — as found by Sir William Macpherson’s landmark inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1999 — but also institutionally misogynistic and homophobic.

Rowley argued against breaking the Met up, saying the move risked causing more problems than it would fix in a “big, complex” city such as London. He also said the DPPU could not be abolished overnight because of the nature of its work but that he would be “radical and as rapid as possible” in transforming its culture.

Home secretary Suella Braverman said the Met had “much more to do” and that she would “continue to hold [Rowley] to account to deliver . . . wholesale change”.

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