One year on from the Casey Review, here are the reforms still needed to restore trust in the Met

There is no place in policing for bigots, predators and abusers

A photo of the Metropolitan Police HQ, New Scotland Yard

Unmesh Desai is London Assembly Member for City and East, covering Barking and Dagenham, the City of London, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. He is London Assembly Labour’s spokesperson on policing and crime

A year ago, Baroness Casey’s damning Review of the Met exposed just how dysfunctional the service had become. She found the Met to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic, confirming what many Londoners already knew to be true.

Baroness Casey documented a litany of failures, including victim blaming and a police force that looked more like a ‘boys club’ than a public service – which encouraged toxic behaviour and punished those who blew the whistle on bad behaviour.

It was the murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens that set the Casey review in motion, and since then, to our deep shock and horror, more cases have arisen which show the extent to which misogyny permeated the ranks of the Metropolitan Police. One of these cases involved the conviction of former Met Officer David Carrick, who was convicted of 49 crimes including rape of over a dozen women. I believe it was the toxic culture of the Met which allowed perpetrators like Couzens and Carrick to go unnoticed and ultimately abuse their power.

Simply put, it is not acceptable for Londoners to live with a police force that they cannot trust. A new leadership team was needed. Mark Rowley, the new Commissioner, has accepted the findings of the Casey Review and understands the need to radically reform the Met into a service that is worthy of Londoners’ trust.

Most urgently, we must root bad officers out of the Met. There is no place in policing for bigots, predators and abusers. While the problems run deeper than specific individuals, each instance of bad behaviour is carried out by one – and each victim of the Met is a victim of a specific officer.

Baroness Casey found that the Met misconduct process was too slow and often weighted against black officers, who were 81% more likely to have claims brought against them. I don’t believe that black officers are worse; I believe that misconduct was being reported but white officers were given more slack.

This is why I support the Met’s action to expedite misconduct cases and make sure the process is capturing more people. New leadership has meant that a third more cases are being recorded, a fifth more completed and three times as many officers suspended – showing that cases are being taken more seriously. It also means that officers who are carrying out this misconduct do not rise through the ranks and cannot lead the next generation of officers.

Vetting processes have been strengthened, including checks on applicants’ social media and financial history, as well as previous allegations of domestic violence. The Metropolitan Police have also re-vetted every currently serving officer to make sure they reached these new, higher standards. This is the bare minimum they needed to do given that officers like Couzens and Carrick slipped through the cracks, but I welcome the work the Met has done to close these loopholes.

But while these reforms are essential in getting the Met back on its feet, we know that dealing with the problems within the police will take more effort than this and I have specific areas of concern.

In October 2023, the police inspectorate warned that the Met’s “approach to child protection is putting vulnerable children at risk”. Particularly, it warned it did not respond properly when children were reported missing, often doing very little to investigate instances when children were likely victims of criminal or sexual exploitation. Missing persons officers were untrained on child safeguarding, and a culture of victim blaming meant that young victims were effectively being treated as adults – particularly when those children were black.

Going back years, reports have consistently found the Met’s child protection efforts to be severely lacking, and I have no more patience for gradual change on this issue.

And, two weeks ago, the findings of the Angiolini Inquiry found that if police services had properly investigated his incidents of indecent exposure, Wayne Couzens would have been caught and dismissed from the force. In the wake of this case, the Met began expediting indecent exposure investigations and has assigned a detective to each case. However, these findings will likely deter women from reporting similar offences in the future. I will continue to push the Met on this.

We must make sure that every sexual offense is investigated properly, and every report of violence taken seriously – otherwise we risk missing our chances to identify those who go on to offend again, including those who are police officers. This is why culture change and regaining the trust of Londoners is so important – we need this trust to prevent and tackle crime.

This is why the enhanced scrutiny and oversight of the Metropolitan Police is more important than ever. The new oversight of the London Policing Board will, hopefully, make sure that the Met keeps on driving this change. On top of City Hall’s Police and Crime Committee, this means that accountability is becoming paramount within the Met. They will be examined by experts and community advocates through the London Policing Board, and through politicians who represent London’s communities through the Committee.

There is, still, one area of the Casey review that concerns me deeply. Baroness Casey found that austerity has crippled the Met over the past decade, forcing the Met to make extremely difficult decisions about which crimes to prioritise. I recently uncovered that the Met is screening out 2/3 of crime in the first 24 hours of reporting.Commissioner Rowley has stated that these much-needed reforms can only go as fast as funding allows, the Government having overseen more than £1billion of real-terms cuts to the Met over the past decade.

I applaud Sadiq Khan for doubling his contribution to the Met’s budget during his Mayoralty, but there is no way to get around the fact that our police service is overstretched, understaffed, and underfunded.

Many Londoners are sceptical of giving more resources to the Met with its current problems, but it seems to me that the situation is made worse by chronic underfunding. Things cannot get better until the government contributes its fair share to the Met, and proper funding is long overdue.

Sadiq Khan has been plugging the gap when it comes to police funding – there was a boost of £151million in the last Budget. But demand is growing – cuts have meant that more problems end up being dealt with by police rather than support or diversion services. On top of this, whilst crime cannot be excused, underlying factors like poverty and cuts need to be addressed.

Police reform and police funding are two sides of the same coin. We cannot expect police to be partners in our communities, supporting victims and solving crimes, without giving them the resources they need.

Labour in City Hall has been fighting for a police service that works for Londoners. That means driving through the reforms that are needed, and urgently, and making sure police have the funding to do so.

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