London’s Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic and unable to police itself, an independent review said on Tuesday, heaping pressure on the Met’s new chief to reform Britain’s biggest police force.
The review was commissioned by the then-head of the Met, Cressida Dick, in 2021 after a serving officer, Wayne Couzens, was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a young woman, Sarah Everard, in a case that shocked the country and put a spotlight on the force’s broader work culture.
But since then, another officer, David Carrick, was also jailed for life for dozens of rapes and sexual assaults stretching back two decades, and several other Met scandals have emerged.
“This report is rigorous, stark and unsparing. Its findings are tough and for many will be difficult to take. But it should leave no one in any doubt about the scale of the challenge,” Louise Casey, who led the review, said in its foreword.
Casey, a member of parliament’s upper house, found severe failings across the Met that required “radical” reform.
Asked if there could be more officers like Couzens and Carrick — who at one point served in the same armed unit protecting MPs and foreign diplomats — Casey said: “I cannot sufficiently assure you that that is not the case.”
“It is the police’s job to keep us safe as the public,” she said. “Far too many Londoners have now lost faith in policing to do that.”
The report, which identified “systemic and fundamental problems” within the Met including “inadequate management”, made 16 recommendations that would constitute a “complete overhaul”.
“We have found widespread bullying, discrimination, institutional homophobia, misogyny and racism, and other unacceptable behaviors,” the report said, adding “women and children do not get the protection and support they deserve”.
Failure to reform could mean the force, which polices more than eight million people over 1,605 square kilometers in the British capital, would be broken up, Casey warned.
“The bottom line is this if an organisation can’t fix itself then there has to change,” she told BBC radio.
But she noted: “The tougher thing is to ask the organisation to change its culture and to do a better job.”
The Met had failed to protect its female staff and the public from “police perpetrators of domestic abuse, nor those who abuse their position for sexual purposes”, her report stated.
“Time and time again, those complaining are not believed or supported. They are treated badly, or face counter-claims from those they have accused,” it said.
The 363-page review also said an “absence of vigilance” meant that “predatory and unacceptable behaviour has been allowed to flourish”.
Racism also exists within the force, with discrimination “often ignored” and complaints “likely to be turned against Black, Asian and ethnic minority officers”.
The Met’s investigations of crimes was also criticised, with the review saying that the force relied on “over-stuffed, dilapidated or broken fridges and freezers” to store forensic evidence.
A lunchbox was found in the same fridge as forensic samples in rape cases, and some appliances were so full they were strapped shut.
One fridge broke down, meaning the evidence inside could no longer be used, the report found.
The findings come more than two decades after a 1999 inquiry into the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence identified institutional racism within the force.
Defensiveness and denial
Finding that policing by consent was broken in the capital, the review said the biggest barrier to fixing the force was the Met’s culture of defensiveness and denial about the scale of its problems.
Met Commissioner Mark Rowley, Britain’s most senior police officer, told reporters: “We’ve let Londoners down and we’ve let our own frontline down and this report paints that vividly […] I’m deeply sorry.”
“It (the report) generates a whole series of emotions: anger, frustration, embarrassment… But most of all, it generates resolve,” he added.
He said the force’s professional standards department had been “stepped up,” and that with their help “we are sacking officers at a faster rate.” Still, he said the job was not done yet.
“I can’t say I have reduced the risk of a bad officer to zero yet, but every day we’re rooting people out and we’re making progress,” he said, when asked if there were still officers accused of crimes such as murder, rape and domestic abuse serving in the force.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said trust in the police had been “hugely damaged”.
“What we need to do is now make sure that that won’t be repeated, that we can regain people’s trust and I know that the police commissioner is committed to doing that,” he told BBC television.
The report said the force needed strong leadership, a women’s protection service, and a new children’s strategy, among other recommendations for reform.
“It’s incredibly important we use this opportunity, one of the darkest days in the history of the Met police service, to ensure there is nobody who is in denial,” Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told BBC Radio.