The Metropolitan Police has been condemned as institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic in a damning new report.
Baroness Louise Casey’s review into the force, which was commissioned in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder by serving officer Wayne Couzens, has laid in bare a series of grave concerns about the Met Police’s standards and culture.
The 363-page document places a significant focus on the force’s treatment of women, and in particular its handling of rape and sexual assault victims. It highlights the experience of one victim for instance who was told by the officer handling her case that she “could and should have done more” to protect herself from rape.
Another Met Police officer told a female colleague, who was a victim of domestic abuse, that it was “about time [she] moved on from this”. She was one of many female officers to detail her mistreatment by male co-workers to the review - with a separate policewoman describing how young junior officers were “traded like cattle” and moved from unit to unit, depending on which senior male officers found them attractive.
It comes after PC David Carrick - who was part of the same firearms unit as Wayne Couzens - was found to be one of the country’s most prolific sex offenders, raping a dozen women over an 18-year period with impunity. It was revealed that there were 12 police complaints against him before he was charged. When asked if there were other rapists like Carrick and Couzens in the force, Baroness Casey said: “I cannot sufficiently assure you that that is not the case”.
She also concluded that there are racist attitudes present in the Met, and that black and ethnic minority officers are more likely to experience discrimination and bullying. The report heard from one officer, who, when raising concerns over racist abuse that black colleagues were receiving, was told by senior figures in the force that it was “character building”.
“Discrimination is often ignored, and complaints are likely to be turned against Black, Asian and ethnic minority officers,” the report said.
Baroness Casey’s finding that the force is institutionally racist echoes that of the Macpherson Inquiry in 1999, which took place after Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the abject failures in how the Met investigated his death. Since then the force has remained largely white and male, the review found.
Meanwhile, a gay Met Police officer, who was described as having been the target of a “sustained campaign of homophobia”, admitted he had been left afraid of his own organisation. “This will sound quite laughable,” he said. “I am scared of the police. I will vary the route I walk to avoid walking past police officers when I’m not at work.”
The Met was also accused of homophobia over the failure to stop serial killer Stephen Port after he murdered four gay men in east London. Port was convicted of perverting the course of justice for lying about the first death, but police ignored him as a suspect and he went on to kill three other people. Force bosses still denied there was an issue, however.
Relatives of the victims have called for a public inquiry into the force in the wake of the report. The sisters of Port’s fourth victim Jack Taylor, Donna and Jenny, said: “You can’t put it right and change the culture if you don’t know what’s going wrong, why it’s going wrong, or fail to fully investigate the root of the problems. That is why there must now be a public inquiry into how and why this force is failing people so badly.”
Baroness Casey warned in her report that policing as a profession attracts “predators and bullies” - and that that behaviour had been allowed to “flourish” within the force. “The Met will attract those who wish to abuse the powers conferred by a warrant card,” she said. “And I am unconvinced that police forces are fully alive to that risk - or that the Met fully understands the gravity of this situation as a whole.”
Vetting processes were condemned as not being “vigilant in identifying clear warning signs, such as previous indecent exposure or domestic abuse from applicant officers.” Concerns raised through the disciplinary process were said to be “not well recorded”, with complaints “more likely to be dismissed than acted upon”.
There were also concerns raised over general management in the Met, with the report detailing one shocking example wherein multiple rape cases were dropped after the fridges and freezers containing evidence - such as swabs, blood, urine and underwear - broke down.
One officer explained: “In the heatwave in 2022, one freezer broke down and all of the evidence had to be destroyed because it could no longer be used.” She said a general email was sent around which effectively said the incident meant that all those cases of alleged rape would be dropped.
Baroness Casey also said there was a “prevailing and default culture of ‘that’s the way we do things’” in the Met - with the force having a “strong tendency to look for a positive spin” when it has been called out on issues in the past. She said the Met has tried to “blame individual bad apples rather than pausing for genuine reflection on systemic issues”, something she has insisted must not happen this time.
“It is really important that this isn’t one of those watershed moments that everyone feels drowned in,” she concluded, “but a landmark moment for Londoners. It is absolutely vital that the Met Police wake up today to the very grave and very serious findings in this review. There must be fundamental change. We cannot wait another decade.”
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: “This report sparks feelings of shame and anger but it also increases our resolve. I am proud of those people, our officers and staff, whose passion for policing and determination to reform moved them to share their experiences with such honesty. This is, in many ways, their report. It must be a catalyst for police reform. This report needs to lead to meaningful change.
“The appalling examples in this report of discrimination, the letting down of communities and victims, and the strain faced by the frontline, are unacceptable. We have let people down and I repeat the apology I gave in my first weeks to Londoners and our own people in the Met. I am sorry.”
He went on to say that he “accepts” the report’s diagnosis “about the racism, misogyny and homophobia in the organisation” and that the Met has “systemic failings, management failings, cultural failings.” However, he refused to use the word ‘institutional’, employed by Baroness Casey in her findings, arguing that: “It’s not a term I use myself. I’m a practical police officer.
“I have to use language that’s unambiguous and is apolitical, and that term means lots of different things to different people and has become politicised in recent debate over the last decade or so.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Following a series of scandals, I asked for this independent review to be conducted by Baroness Louise Casey because I was deeply concerned about the cultural issues and systemic failings within the Met.
“The evidence is damning. Baroness Casey has found institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia, which I accept. She has described the Met as defensive, resistant to change, and unwilling to engage with communities.
“I have been determined as Mayor to shine a light on the true extent of the cultural problems in the Met as this is the only way to properly address the deep-rooted issues and regain the trust of Londoners. This review simply must be a turning point and I expect all the recommendations to be implemented quickly and in full.”
When asked at a press briefing, Commissioner Rowley said he and his Deputy Commissioner, Dame Lynne Owens, will do “everything that is humanly possible to implement the recommendations.”