Following growing concerns over its conduct in recent months, from its handling of Sarah Everard’s death and the discovery that officers had photographed the bodies of two murdered sisters, to its initial decision to not investigate the Downing Street parties held in lockdown, the Metropolitan Police has triggered yet another wave of public outrage after a new report uncovered “a culture of misogyny, harassment, racism and homophobia” within the force.
With that list, there have been calls for its commissioner Cressida Dick to resign - following claims that she had not tackled the force’s misogynistic culture.
The new report, published by the force’s watchdog - the IOPC (the Independent Office for Police Conduct) – highlighted just what everyone thinks of it. Met Police officers sent one another racist, sexist, homophobic messages and even included references to rape, according to the report.
Officers sent WhatsApp and Facebook messages saying; “I would happily rape you” and “if I was single I would happily chloroform you”. According to the report, these messages were described as “banter”, which “became a cover for bullying and harassment”.
There were references to officers going to a festival dressed as known sex offenders and a molested child, while other investigations looked into the use of steroids, bullying and sexual harassment of other officers. There were further concerns raised about an officer assaulting his partner, other officers demonstrating misogynist behaviour and actions, deleting material relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation, and a failure to report, challenge or appropriately deal with such allegations.
The IOPC explained: “We believe these incidents are not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few ‘bad apples’.” The watchdog’s regional director, Sal Naseem, also said: “The behaviour we uncovered is disgraceful and fell well below the standards expected of the officers involved.
“While these officers predominantly worked in teams in Westminster, which have since been disbanded, we know from other recent cases that these issues are not isolated or are they historic.” He added: “Colleagues were afraid to speak out about these behaviours for fear of being ostracised, demeaned or told to get another job.”
He also acknowledged that the report “is shocking and contains language which is offensive” and could be upsetting, but that it was key to provide context for why such hard-hitting recommendations will now be necessary. Fourteen officers were investigated over the course of the probe. Two were dismissed for gross misconduct and barred from further employment with the police.
Another two resigned and others faced disciplinary action, while nine are still serving with the force and another is working as a contractor in a staff position. This was part of the watchdog’s Operation Hotton probe, which was made up of nine linked independent investigations.
It began in March 2018 after allegations that an officer had sex with a drunk person at a police station. The investigation gradually expanded, with a focus on Charing Cross police station who worked together in Westminster. This team has now been disbanded.
Deputy assistant commissioner Bas Javid said: “I am angry and disappointed to see officers involved in sharing sexist, racist and discriminatory messages.
“It’s clear we have a lot of work to do to ensure bullying and discrimination does not exist in any part of the Met. The actions of these officers between 2016 and 2018 were unacceptable, unprofessional, disrespectful and deeply offensive. I read their messages with increasing disgust and shame.
“We haven’t waited for the IOPC’s report to take action – a number of officers have been subject to misconduct proceedings, including one officer dismissed and one who would have been dismissed had he not already resigned. Every Met employee has also been spoken to about responsible use of social media.
“We recognise that there is need for real change in the Met and we are committed to creating an environment that is even more intolerant to those who do not uphold the high values and standards expected of us.” In an official statement, the force said: “The conduct of a team of officers at Charing Cross Police Station in central London does not represent the values of the Metropolitan Police Service.
“We are deeply sorry to Londoners and everyone they have failed with their appalling conduct and acknowledge how this will damage the trust and confidence of many within the Met. Since this reprehensible behaviour was uncovered in 2017 we have taken a series of measures to hold those responsible to account and stamp out unacceptable behaviour.”
Twitter has now exploded with people calling for the entire force to be restructured, in an effort to root out the disgraceful” culture which.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the report has uncovered “appalling” behaviour from the Charing Cross police officers. “This kind of abuse, racism, misogyny, bullying and disrespect is a disgrace and should never have any place within policing, where the highest standards must always be maintained,” she said, adding that the report didn’t go far enough. She called for improved training and vetting, a culture of respect and the review of social media use before further calling for the Home Office to act so “the highest standards are always met across policing”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was disgusted by the report’s findings, dubbing the conduct of these officers as “totally unacceptable”. He added: “What has been revealed by these investigations will only further damage public trust and confidence in the police.
“It is right that the team concerned has been disbanded and the police officers found to be involved have been dismissed, disciplined or have left the police. Anyone found to be responsible for sexism, racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, antisemitism, bullying or harassment does not deserve to wear the Met uniform and must be rooted out.”