As featured in Edition 40, available here.
BY SURINA RUMPAL (1st year - PAIS and GSD - Buckinghamshire, UK)
From Wayne Couzens’ repulsive abuse of power in kidnapping, raping, and murdering Sarah Everard, to the jokes made afterwards by other Metropolitan (Met) Police officers, there is an ongoing crisis of not only a misogyny, but racism and homophobia within the Met Police.
The resignation of former Met Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick has been welcomed with open arms, with the hope that we will begin to see institutional change on all levels within the Met Police Force.
Dick was the leader of the operation that got Jean Charles de Menezes wrongfully shot 7 times in the head in 2005 after being mistaken for a suicide bomber. This counterintuitively got her promoted to deputy assistant commissioner. Dick’s repertoire is perfectly summed up by Simon Edge, author of “The End of the World is Flat” -- ‘failing upwards’.
In more recent years, her officers forcibly dragging women from Sarah Everard’s vigil and referring to her murderer as a “bad ‘un (one)” strengthened calls for her resignation.
The last straw was the leak of Charing Cross Met officers’ texts regarding hitting and raping women. One of which was sent to a female officer and reads “I would happily rape you”. Others included texts about attending a festival dressed as known sex offenders and a molested child. This highlights the toxic culture of sexism, misogyny, and exploitation of power within the force.
Misogyny is not the only problem plaguing the Met. Racism has run rampant for far too long in the force. This ranges on a spectrum from racial bias in stop-and-searches to people of colour within the Met experiencing both overt and indirect racial discrimination. Despite London being one of the most diverse regions of the UK, the Met is arguably one of the most racist institutions within the country.
Bas Javid, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner (who is responsible for professional standards) has said that some Met Officers “have racist views and are racist”, but denied that the Met was a “racist organisation”. This is a blatant lie. In a system where 80% of all stop-and-searches are performed on Black people, where officers are 4x more likely to use force on Black people, and where officers make racist jokes and humiliate their POC co-workers -- the Met’s racial overtones are unmistakable.
Officers have come forward with their personal experiences of racism within the Met. One officer cited their supervisor referring to him as a monkey and has been jeered for the way he spoke. The insults were incredibly severe: he had even been called a drug dealer. Another account revealed that senior leaders suggested Black people were not clever enough for the Met.
As ex-Commissioner Sir Paul Condon said in 1998, “racism in the police is much more than ‘bad apples’”. It has become ingrained into the system and deep-rooted reforms are needed to combat this. There should be racial bias screening upon recruitment as well as immediate sanctions for officers being racist.
The irony is that law enforcement themselves are the lawbreakers -- from discrimination to committing actual crimes. In recent news, Julian Bennett, a senior commander in the Met Police, who developed a drugs strategy and oversaw the dismissal of two officers for drug use, was found to have taken LSD, magic mushrooms, and cannabis whilst on holiday in France in 2021. The fact that he will be sacked, rather than face criminal charges highlights how weak this corrupt system is.
There is a desperate need for change within the force. A recent YouGov survey found 47% of women and 40% of men said trust in police has decreased since the murder of Sarah Everard. It is crucial the police win over the public’s trust in order to establish healthy relationships between the general public and law enforcement.
However, as it stands, with officers fining Londoners for sitting on park benches over lockdown, and racism in stop-and-searches, this will take a lot of work and time.
This is why Dick’s resignation couldn’t come at a better time. Her successor will hopefully put a conscious effort to rebuild the bridge burnt between the public and law enforcement.
Reform needs to happen on every level, from the bottom up. There is already a huge demand for change. We need better press coverage and scrutiny, as well as more public engagement, which will come as the public regain their trust in the force.
It will be interesting to see how Dick’s successor approaches this mammoth task, and to what extent they will be successful.
Image - Flickr (Number 10)