Opening Image taken at Vigil for Sarah Everard, taken by Hollie Adams.
Written by Michael Quinn.
Sexist, racist and homophobic.
No group wants to be referred to by these words. Disturbingly, Baroness Casey chose them to describe the Met in a searing report released early last week. Many won’t be surprised by this, while for others, it will remove any lingering notions that it was just a few bad apples tarnishing the good name of London’s police.
The 356-page document highlights a ‘boys club’ culture of discrimination, bullying and coverups. Internally, the harassment of female officers was rife, with policewomen regularly demeaned and degraded. Even more shocking was behaviour towards members of the public – the recently jailed David Carrick standing out as a bleak reminder of what had been allowed to fester for so long.
Other areas of concern included the over-policing and under-protection of those from minority backgrounds and the dismal rate at which rapes are successfully tried and convicted.
While problems have been apparent for years, it’s unlikely anyone foresaw the scale of the rot. Undertaken following the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, Casey’s report has shined much-needed light on a profoundly dysfunctional institution.
The Met has ‘welcomed’ the findings, no doubt through gritted teeth. A profuse apology from new chief Mark Rowley – who appears to have inherited a nightmare situation – was caveated with the fact that more unsavoury headlines could follow. It’s unclear whether he knows of more misdoings or is just getting in front of the issue.
What is clear, however, is that change is needed. The report even suggested that if the Met cannot fix itself, it may be broken up to be more easily monitored and regulated. A rebrand might be the smart move, as the current institution is haemorrhaging respect and confidence. If the public does not view the Met as an authority, their ability to enforce the law evaporates.
One roadblock to carving up the Met will be the process’s daunting complexity. So interconnected are its operations to other institutions that picking it apart will take years – all the while needing to remain operational in the battle against London’s rising crime rate. A blueprint may exist from when Northern Ireland’s RUC was disbanded, but the Met’s sprawling presence will create a unique set of challenges, which may prove too exhausting to comprehend.
Diminishing belief in the establishment
The role of the police has always been up for debate, but these recent scandals have brought their entire legitimacy into question. Will women now willingly go with a lone officer after Sarah Everad’s abduction? Will people trust the police to do the right thing after David Carrick’s thirty-year spree? It might be true that only a tiny minority prey on the public, but these instances are common enough for even the most law-abiding citizen to second-guess the intentions of well-meaning officers.
All this comes at a time when faith in the establishment is plummeting. Boris Johnson has starred in his latest act of political theatre, attempting to convince the commons committee that he misled parliament accidentally. The only positive from this shameful episode in British politics is that it hopefully brings the never-ending ‘party gate’ saga to a close.
Naturally, the Conservatives had to clean house following ‘party gate’, and it’s likely the Met will too. But, the stain of disdain shown by those in positions of power has severely damaged the already fragile idea of governing by consent. In the long run, these twin jolts might be no bad thing. As long as it doesn’t result in our society going up in flames, a reminder that those who seek authority are not always worthy of it is a valuable lesson.