Officers in Britain’s biggest police force are getting away with breaking the law and committing misconduct, a damning review has found, and hundreds should be sacked.
A report on the Metropolitan Police’s misconduct procedures also found the internal disciplinary system is racist and misogynist, and allegations of sexual misconduct or discrimination are less likely to result in a case to answer than other claims.
The report, which was published on Monday (17 October), comes over a year after the killing of Sarah Everard. The 33-year-old was murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens. He has been jailed for life.
What does the report say?
Author Baroness Louise Casey said: “We have heard repeatedly from colleagues that they feel and believe and actually have given us case examples of where people are getting away both with misconduct but also criminal behaviour.”
Repeat misconduct offenders have also remained in post, with only 13 out of 1,809 officers and staff with more than one case against them since 2013 being sacked. The report found 1,263 were involved in two or more cases, more than 500 were involved in three to five, and 41 were involved in six or more – the highest number being 19.
What has the reaction to the report been?
New Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he was appalled by the findings and apologised to officers and members of the public who had been let down. He said the number of officers and staff being sacked each year, between around 30 and 50, was “massively under-engineered”, and he estimated there are hundreds of officers in the Met who should be kicked out of the force.
“You have to come to the conclusion there must be hundreds of people that shouldn’t be here, who should be thrown out,” Sir Mark said. “There must be hundreds who are behaving disgracefully, undermining our integrity and need ejecting.”
Dame Louise said her findings have to be a “line in the sand” moment. The Met is so unclear about what constitutes gross misconduct that repeated incidents of sexual misconduct towards colleagues would not result in an officer being sacked, she found.
Dame Louise said: “There are moments when I have looked at the cases with people I’ve listened to and I have wondered what exactly would constitute gross misconduct in order to get them out of the force.”
She was brought in to look at misconduct procedures and the culture within the Metropolitan Police after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, and a series of scandals around disturbing messages shared by officers on WhatsApp. Her interim report on misconduct procedures was published on Monday (17 October).
Eight key issues highlighted by the report
In a letter to Sir Mark, Dame Louise said: “The misconduct system is not delivering in a way that you, I, your officers or the public would expect it to. Cases are taking too long to resolve, allegations are more likely to be dismissed than acted upon, the burden on those raising concerns is too heavy, and there is racial disparity across the system, with white officers dealt with less harshly than black or Asian officers.”
She outlined eight key issues in her letter:
- The Met takes too long to resolve misconduct cases, on average 400 days but nearly 20% take more than two years.
- Between 55% and 60% of misconduct allegations result in a finding of no case to answer, higher than the national average of 46%, and supervisors warn staff against taking misconduct action.
- Fewer cases involving discrimination (20%) and sexual misconduct (29%) end with a case to answer decision, compared to 33% of all cases. The report found this adds to a sense that discriminatory behaviour is not a breach of standards and a sense that “anything goes”.
- Officers and staff who have faced repeated misconduct claims are not properly disciplined. Between 2013 and 2022, 20% were repeat offenders having been involved in two or more cases, but less than 1% had been sacked.
- Many misconduct cases are dealt with by overstretched local units without proper training.
- The force is unclear about what constitutes gross misconduct, with the bar set too high.
- There is racial discrimination in the conduct system, with black officers and staff 81% more likely than their white colleagues to have cases brought against them in 2021/22, while Asian officers were 55% more likely.
- A rule, regulation 13, that allows probationers to be kicked off the force is not being used properly or fairly. Only 8% of cases in 2021/22 resulted in dismissal, and black officers are 126% more likely to be subject to a regulation 13 case than white, with Asian officers 123% more likely.
In a letter in reply to Dame Louise, Sir Mark apologised for the force’s failings. He said: “The evidence is clear: the disproportionate way in which you have showed us black and Asian officers and staff have been treated shows patterns of unacceptable discrimination that clearly amount to systemic bias.
“The fact that allegations of racism or sexual misconduct and misogyny have less chance of being upheld is also completely unacceptable. Furthermore, it is clear that the Met’s systems and processes don’t support the right outcomes. You uncover painful experiences from those within our ranks who have suffered discrimination and hate from colleagues, only to have their hurt compounded by a weak response from the organisation. This cannot continue.
“I am sorry to those we have let down: both the public and our honest and dedicated officers. The public deserves a better Met, and so do our good people who strive every day to make a positive difference to Londoners.”
A full report on the culture within the Met will be published in the new year.
Home Office announced a review of the systems to sack police officers
As the interim report was published, the Home Office announced a review of the systems to sack police officers, whether forces are using powers to dismiss probationary officers, and whether regulations governing the disciplinary system should be changed.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “The public rightly expects the highest standards of behaviour from police officers and the vast majority meet this expectation. But recently too many high-profile incidents and reports, especially in London, have damaged trust – which is unfair on the public and lets down other serving officers.
“This cannot continue. Culture and standards in the police must improve. And where an officer has fallen seriously short of these expectations, demonstrable, public action must be taken.”
Chief Constable Andy Marsh from professional standards body the College of Policing said: “Baroness Casey’s review puts a shameful light on behaviour which has eroded the foundation of our model to police by consent.
“What has been found has no place in society, let alone in a police service where we should be dedicated to helping the vulnerable. The report makes for difficult reading but it is vital that we listen to what Baroness Casey has found, and I know the commissioner and the Met are committed to taking immediate action to resolve these issues.”