An Islamic agent who found a piece of bacon in his shoes in his locked locker. A Sikh officer who had his beard shaved off as a joke. Women who had to eat an entire cheesecake as initiation, to the point of vomiting. And a black, gay policeman who was constantly ridiculed and whose belongings, including the uniform, were hidden and whose locker was destroyed.
They are all examples of racism, sexism and homophobia within the London police force from the damning report published tonight. Researcher Louise Casey argues that the Metropolitan Police (Met) is rotten deep down and that workplace discrimination and misogyny are rampant. She believes immediate action is needed.
ACTIONS TAKEN TOO LATE
That this poisoned working atmosphere also leads to problems in the outside world is an understatement. Casey’s investigation was launched after Sarah Everard’s death, which sparked a public outcry when the perpetrator was revealed to be a police officer. In addition, a report of pencil trading by the agent who kidnapped, raped and murdered her in March 2021 turned out not to have been properly investigated.
Just last month, a London cop was sentenced to 36 life terms for a string of rapes and other crimes. In previous years, it turned out that nine complaints had been made against him, including rape, which had no consequences for his career.
“He should never have been a cop,” Met police commissioner Rowley acknowledged after this was released in mid-January. He immediately announced a screening of all 45,000 police employees to see if any signals about him had been missed in the past.
Sounds decisive, but it also follows a fixed pattern, says researcher Casey. Because the police of the British capital often only act when an external party, such as a judge, investigator or newspaper, has shown that something has gone wrong. Then comes an admission of guilt, apologies and the announcement of plans to address the issues.
POLICE CORPS DOESNT SEE THE PROBLEMS
It’s been that way for decades. It is not the first time that such harsh words have been spoken about the Metropolitan Police, says Casey.
In 1999, a researcher had already concluded that there was institutionalized racism and sexism at the Met. Then the reason was the racist murder of a black teenager where many mistakes were made in the investigation.
Researcher Casey is therefore skeptical. She is not convinced that the police force understands how serious the situation is. “The Met prefers to pretend it’s a few bad apples committing such heinous crimes. If these crimes don’t lead to self-understanding and reform, what will it take?”
She does come up with a number of recommendations, in which she speaks of an enormous task for the London police. “The broom has to go through the entire organization.” For example, a new team should be set up to investigate complaints, in particular about sexual misconduct, domestic violence and discrimination.
In addition, staff must meet the highest standards and if not, there must be consequences. To this end, officers and other police employees must be checked regularly. Those controls must change immediately, so that “people who want to use their position of power at the Met no longer have a chance”. Casey also wants the police commissioner to have more options to fire officers and deprive them of their pensions.
Commissioner Rowley says he uses the report to implement reforms. “I say again that we need to purge the Met of people who engage in such toxic behaviors and modify processes that have not addressed their behavior or even made it worse.”
Rowley speaks of a new phase for the Met. He warns that painful periods are ahead given the great task, but is convinced that thanks to “the effort and dedication of the determined, honest and often heroic majority” his corps will succeed.
Investigator Casey recommends a new investigation in two and five years to see if there is any progress in the case. If not, the government should consider closing the Met as a whole and dividing it into smaller parts.