‘Why the Met needs breaking up and vetting isn’t the issue’ – Police Commissioner Donna Jones, national lead for victims reacts to the Baroness Casey review
20 March 2023
On the eve of the publication of the Baroness Casey review, I carry a deep sense of shame, anger, hurt and disappointment. Mixed emotions that signify my pain for the thousands of victims that never should have been victims, and my pain for the thousands of men and women in this country who put on a uniform every day, with a modicum of pride, to do their duty and keep people safe.
Working alongside someone you suspect of not upholding the highest standards, or someone you know or suspect of being a misogynist, a racist or a homophobe, makes a tough job even tougher.
What makes it soul destroying is when you have taken the step and made the brave decision to report your concerns, often with strong support, and the person working alongside you remains in post, uninhibited to continue their wrong doings, left with the freedom to continue grotesque patterns of behaviour. This lax attitude has left some men in the Met thinking they are untouchable which has fuelled the growth of a rotten culture at it’s core.
Serving the public and your county is a calling. There are several professions that allow you the privilege but policing is unique; like no other, in that you are the first person to make a decision about taking another’s liberty and your duty is to keep people safe from harm. Dame Casey’s report finds the opposite to be true. Despite countless inquiries and reports, Dame Casey says black Londoners still aren’t protected, women – both female colleagues and the public, are subjected to shocking attitudes, and officers from minority backgrounds are greeted with bigoted ‘jokes’ from their ‘comrades.’
The report is shocking. Discrimination and the abuse of power in the Met seem worse than ever. The term ‘institutional racism’ again appears in Dame Casey’s report, but it has been 24 years since Sir William Macpherson’s landmark report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, so what has changed?
Much focus has been made on the national vetting review. Whilst vetting is an important part of pre-employment checks, it is not the panacea to fixing policing issues. It is but a snap-shot in time. Re-vetting every three years is a sensible idea, but there will be consequences in coagulating an already slow and creaking system. Recent cases of David Carrick would not have been prevented by better vetting, but by the handling of complaints quicker when they were made.
It is Police Standard Departments that hold the key to driving up standards and expediting complaints when they are made; rooting out officers which bring this shame; who perpetuate this culture. These departments need a complete overhaul to remove rapists and murders from the streets of Britain, should they be hiding in police uniforms. They need leaders which command and practice integrity, not just talk about it. Every chief constable in the country should be looking at how much time their anti-corruption units are spending on proactive work, versus reactive work and the length of time to get cases through to conclusion. In her interim report published in Nov 2022 Baroness Casey concluded that on average it took the Met 400 days to conclude a case. Why? If they were a private sector organisation, you’d take your business somewhere else.
Policing is one of the most important public service organisations. Policing by consent is the only plausible model, and so radical steps are now required to ensure public consent remains, especially in our capital city.
On the eve of one of the most significant reviews in policing history I once again say, is the Met too big?
I have long called for a break-up of the Met. Not because I don’t have confidence in the determination or vision Sir Mark Rowley or in-fact the excellent Cressida Dick before him, but because the force is too large and it will take too long. With the failings of the Mayor of London whose ultimate responsibility it is to keep Londoners safe, and his invisible approach to the systemic failings in the Met, the only sensible option is to break the Met up into three or four smaller forces, and put them on track with others forces in the UK to make the streets of London safer.