One of the most famous policing institutions in the world—the Metropolitan Police—cannot offer security from their staff to women at the beginning of the 21st century. Apart from the recent Metropolitan Police officer cases of David Carrick—self-confessed serial rapist—and Wayne Couzens—kidnapper, rapist, and murderer of Sarah Everard, the Met is currently reviewing previous allegations of violence against women and girls made against 1,071 police officers and staff members. As such, the Police Commissioner of the Metropolis, Mark Rowley, cannot guarantee the safety of women when they deal with the Police in London. It’s a very sad indictment of the Police service for London for some 50 percent of our population.
Let us also not forget that, also, there have been murders of women in public spaces, including the killings of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, and of Sabina Nessa. All of these bring into sharp focus our urgent duty to do more to protect women and girls.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story: the Met’s reputation has also been tarnished by the suggestion of political corruption, homophobic murder investigations, and, of course, the oldest one of institutionalized racism.
During the recent tenure of the previous Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, the Met was accused of rampant corruption by the Independent Report of Daniel Morgan’s murder investigation from the 1980s. The Report of the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan accused the previous Police Commissioner of obstructing the work of the inquiry into the Morgan case by denying access to documents the panel thought vital. It blamed the force for taking eight years to reach its conclusions. The Commissioner was forced to publicly deny the Report’s central conclusion that the Met was institutionally corrupt. This happened well before the partygate investigation into No 10 Downing during the pandemic, where some point out the insufficient vigor of the investigation.
The Sarah Everard case is as clear a case of misogyny by a policeman as you are ever going to find, but let us not also forget the overreaction by the Met as officers were accused of “grabbing and mishandling” women as hundreds defied warnings to attend the vigil event in Clapham, South London. This—and the “disgraceful” advice issued after Sarah Everard’s murder—sparked a fierce backlash amongst women.
As for the four boys—Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor, and Anthony Walgate—who were murdered in Barking by Stephen Port after being drugged with GHB and then raped by him, they was a clear pattern which the murder investigation never picked up on till it was far too late. This failure has led to accusations that it was a homophobic police investigation.
All this institutionalized corruption, misogyny, and homophobia were revealed over the course of the last few years alone. And then there is, of course, the Met’s long-standing accusation of institutionalized racism after the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder and by the Courts going back to the Mangrove 9.
The timely release of Tom Harper’s book, Broken Yard: The Fall of the Metropolitan Police, illustrates the problems have been some time coming. This detailed critique of thirty years of Met policing scandals tells a lot about the service getting to where it is now. While the success of a Labour government’s Safer Neighbourhood policies is acknowledged, it shows how twelve years of swinging cuts have meant that the Police can’t do the job properly and morale is hitting rock bottom. Quite honestly, it’s a must-read for anyone concerned with the policing of London, finding out how it got itself into this mess and how it might get itself out of it.
Maybe it is time we took some responsibilities like counterterrorism and diplomatic cover in Central London from Scotland Yard and assigned them to a national police force. This would allow it to concentrate on the regular crimes that Londoners face, like burglaries and cybercrime, which do not get much joy from the Police. Unsurprisingly, the Met has been under special measures from the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) on this front, with over 70,000 unrecorded crimes and errors in stop and search since last June. Some local authorities have even taken matters into their own hands and set up Law Enforcement Teams across their borough, like in Hammersmith & Fulham in West London, focusing on street, park, and housing patrols and have undertaken 2,500 investigations in their first year.
As all the Met police scandals have piled up, local police, residents, and others have had to get involved to make up for their failings. There must be more accountability and change to fix this damaged system. There is a long way to go yet for this whole sorry mess to be sorted out, and it will take considerable time and effort before nine million Londoners will be able to start trusting the Metropolitan Police again.