An independent report (1) into the culture of Metropolitan police has found that they are still institutionally racist, as well as misogynistic and homophobic.
The report was commissioned after one police officer abducted Sarah Everard who he raped and then murdered, and it is depressing reading that reveals a toxic culture which means casual sexism, racism and homophobia exist and frequently go unchallenged.
Sexism and homophobia in the MET
- The MET is 72% male and so women are significantly under-represented still.
- 12% of women working for the MET reported being harassed or attacked and one third said they had experienced sexism.
- One woman formally complained when she was the victim of sustained harassment and an indecent act by a male superior. He got away with everything and she was made out to be a liar.
- One in five Lesbian, gay or bisexual officers said they had experienced homophobia and 30% of LGBTQ officers said they had been bullied.
Racism in the MET
- The MET is 82% white and thus remains disproportionately white in a capital that is increasingly ethnically diverse
- Stop and search rates against ethnic minorities are still proportionally higher than against whites.
- Only 45% of the London population had confidence in the police to do their job effectively, with figures 5-10% lower for Black and Asian respondents.
- Black and Asian officers are more likely to be disciplined and leave the force early. Black officers are 81% more likely than their white counterparts to go through misconduct processes.
- There are some shocking individual cases of over racism. For example one Muslim officer found bacon stuffed in boots and one Sikh officer had is beard cut.
Why is the MET institutionally racist?
The recruitment process was poor: there was no effective screening in place which might prevent racists and sexists intent on abusing their power from entering the force.
The management of officers was poor: there were no effective processes for dealing with bad officers or encouraging and developing good officers.
Complaints against the conduct of officers are frequently not taken seriously, and often just dismissed – thus complaints about sexism and racism often go uninvestigated.
The report talks of a culture of not speaking up about discrimination among officers and a management culture that encouraged this because when people did complain they were met with defensiveness and denial and there could even be negative career consequences for those who raised complaints.
Some of the root causes of the failure of MET to tackle institutional discrimination lie in the Tory funding cuts over the last decade. The MET has relatively less money now compared to 10 years ago, and senior officers have to manage huge numbers of regular officers, meaning it is practically very difficult for them to monitor discrimination.
Also the nature of crime has changed over the last decade: there are a lot more domestic abuse cases which take more police resources to investigate: so the police have less money but a more complex work load.
The unfortunate irony is that while budgetary pressures mean less focus is being put on combatting discrimination within the MET, crime has changed so that there are more cases requiring reasonable officers who aren’t racist, sexist, homophobes to work on them.
Sir Mark Rowley, the MET commissioner since September 2022 accepted that the MET had racist, sexist and homophobic officers and a cultural problem, but refused to accept the use of the term ‘institutionally racist’, as does the Home Office.
Fixing the MET
The report agued that the Metropolitan police needed a ‘complete overhaul’ to fix its problems, highlighting the Specialist Firearms Unit as particularly dissimilatory.
Two specific recommendations included giving the (newly appointed) commissioner new powers to deal with complaints against officers and improving the recruitment process so that racist, sexist and homophobic people are prevented from joining the MET in the first place.
This is a depressing reminder that the MET are still institutionally racist. The issue of ethnicity, crime and policing is a core component of the Crime and Deviance unit within A-level sociology courses.
(1) Final Report: An independent review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service, Baroness Casey of Blackstock DBE CB, March 2023.
(2) The Guardian (March 2023) Met police found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.