There is a crisis in the Metropolitan Police. It is widely acknowledged that Britain’s biggest police force has lost the confidence of women. The few who seemingly refuse to accept this reality are led by ministers and the Metropolitan Police commissioner herself.
This is not the first section of the community whose experience has led them to have little faith in the Met. But it is the largest.
For a long time, the Met has been seen as antagonistic towards Black people. It is also increasingly seen that way by the Asian community. Now women too do not feel safe in dealing with the Met’s officers.
This, in my view, is a failure of leadership that has led to a disastrous undermining of community policing in London, which has wider resonance for police and community relations right across the country.
The truly awful abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard is a watershed moment for the majority of women. Outside London, hardly anyone believes that, for their force “it couldn’t happen here”. It is also hard to imagine that there are no senior police officers in those forces who are completely dismayed by these events and the impact on the public. Many will surely be wondering why she remains in post.
Above all this is a crisis of leadership. From what I have seen, under Cressida Dick, relations with key sections of the community have deteriorated very markedly. Stop and search has been increased by the Met under government instruction. This is despite the fact that the Home Office’s own research shows that this type of blanket, random stop and search is useless, or even counter-productive. It is certainly applied in a discriminatory way to Black young men and, increasingly, Asian or Muslim young men too.
Cressida Dick appears to have enthusiastically embraced the ministerial instructions to increase this type of random stop and search, despite the fact they are ideologically, not operationally motivated.
It is the Met’s eagerness to please political masters at the expense of community policing that is at the root of the current crisis. When this is combined with a tolerance of misogyny, racism and homophobia, the mix is toxic.
Historically, the policing model in this country was and remains policing by consent. It means that our police officers do not routinely carry guns because they are seen as working with the community, not occupying it, as we have seen in other countries, especially the United States.
Our policing model necessarily rests on community consent. But, just as Met policing has moved away from that and increasingly soured relations with the Black and Asian communities, so it is now at risk of pushing women in the same direction.
This leadership of the Met has failed to turn around its abysmal record on prosecutions for domestic violence, for rape and serious sexual offences.
Earlier this year it was revealed that just one in 20 rape allegations in London leads to a suspect being charged.
Reports of sexual offences other than rape are not much better, with only 6,883 of the 56,933 allegations between May 2016 and February 2021 being solved, according to the Met’s own figures.
There has also been a 42 per cent fall in the number of prosecutions in the capital for domestic violence, according to recent figures from the Crown Prosecution Service.
These are serial failures to address crimes that disproportionately victimise women. But all of this has been brought to a head with the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer.
With Cressida Dick at the helm, a police officer who became known to colleagues as “the rapist” was recruited by the force and fast-tracked before he went on to commit his crimes. His colleagues are now under investigation for racist and misogynistic WhatsApp messages. Police officers brutally broke up the candle-lit vigil in Sarah Everard’s honour, after she had conducted “extensive discussions” with the home secretary.
Cressida Dick said she wants the force to regain the public’s trust and announced a review of “standards and culture”. But her advice to women approached by a sole police officer is to hail down a bus. This is grotesque and indicates to me how much thought has been given to this issue.
This rotten culture must end. In my view, that clearly requires change at the top as well as root and branch reform. Cressida Dick must go.