In a speech today to police superintendents, the Met Commissioner renewed his pledge to drive through reform in a bid to improve public confidence battered by the scandals which have engulfed his force. He also turned his guns on flaws in the wider criminal justice system which he believes hinders officers in bringing offenders to justice.
But politicians and campaigners focused instead on the Met’s continuing problems and warned that Sir Mark still had a large task ahead as he worked to clean up his force. It remains in special measures imposed by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue
Services over its poor performance and has seen a succession of its officers convicted in court in recent months for crimes including rape, as well as others facing misconduct proceedings.
The force is also still trying to address the widespread failings catalogued in a damning report by Baroness Casey earlier this year. It concluded that the Met was institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic, as well as badly run.
Victims’ Commissioner for London, Claire Waxman, said she was pleased that Sir Mark had spent “a good deal of his first year listening to communities and victims to help rebuild trust and confidence in the police” and also praised the Met for increasing its charging rate for rape.
But she warned that similar advances were needed in tackling domestic abuse, improving the treatment of victims and purging unfit officers. “There can be no complacency on rooting out bad officers,” she said.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said Sir Mark and his new leadership team were committed to delivering cultural and performance changes as well as revitalising neighbourhood policing but added: “There is still a great deal to do. Londoners will rightly judge the Met on improvements made.”
Mina Smallman, the mother of two murdered sisters whose bodies were photographed by police officers guarding the scene in Wembley, who then shared the images, told the Standard she gave Sir Mark credit for tackling corruption and recent crime-fighting operations.
However, she warned that his refusal to accept Baroness Casey’s label of “institutional racism” in the force was holding back crucial reform. She said: “It’s about acknowledging these people no longer have a hold of the organisation, ‘You’re out, and we’re not going to accept it the canteen or on patrol’. Until Sir Mark does that, he will not make traction.”
Activist Patsy Stevenson was photographed being pinned down by officers during a Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard, who was murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens in March 2021. She said: “From what I’ve seen, the face at the top has changed. But we are still seeing officers charged with rape and sexual offences.”
Habib Kadiri, from stop-and-search campaign group StopWatch, added Sir Mark Rowley’s keenness to use facial recognition technology to solve crime does not address “long-established racial disproportionality of hotspot policing”. He added: “No innovations will change the fact that the vast majority of stop-and-searches result in no further action taken, and no amount of scientism can make up for officers’ negative bias towards black Londoners. Improving public trust in his force is not as simple as a data fix.”
Sir Mark, a former national counter-terrorism chief, was brought in following the departure of Dame Cressida Dick, who had lost the confidence of Mr Khan. Sir Mark said that he had several hundred officers who were unfit to serve and blamed a previously over-lenient approach to standards.
There was no official comment from Home Secretary Suella Braverman or policing minister Chris Philp today but a source said both had a close working relationship with Sir Mark and were confident in his ability to deliver change.
Never-ending in-tray: How Scotland Yard is performing
The Met has 34,207 officers. The number facing misconduct hearings has risen to 260. Sir Mark says he is “potentially” a third of the way through the clean-up process. Reforms announced last week will see senior officers preside over misconduct hearings again.
The force has ambitious plans to remove 30 to 50 a month. But last month, published material suggested only a handful were dismissed and several others resigned. In April, the Met said sackings had risen by 70 per cent in six months and suspensions doubled. A scan of 17 forthcoming hearings reveals allegations of dishonesty, failed drug tests, sexual touching, harassment, assaults, racist WhatsApp messaging and disclosing confidential data.
In the year to June, trust in the Met fell by another two per cent to an all-time low of 70 per cent from an estimated 83 per cent in March 2020, according to a City Hall public attitude survey. The biggest dip was among London’s LGBTQ+ community, down 18 per cent to 52 per cent. It follows reports of homophobia in the ranks and missed chances to catch serial killer Stephen Port. Support remains low in black and mixed-race groups, and populations in Hackney, Waltham Forest and Lewisham where trust is between 58 and 59 per cent. However, there has been a surprise eight per cent increase in support among Asian groups and white Europeans.
Latest figures show that robbery, particularly of mobile phones, is up 14.8 per cent in the 12 months since Sir Mark’s appointment, a higher rate than other cities. In just 1,560 out of 28,178 offences in London, a suspect was charged (5.5 per cent). Detection is also down 13.6 per cent between September last year and last month, according to the Met’s monthly crime dashboard. Burglary has fallen 1.7 per cent over the year but from 38,372 domestic break-ins, only 1,550 were solved (four per cent). The Met is attending almost every burglary call. Anti-social behaviour is also down and police are receiving around 18 per cent fewer calls.
Anis Omar Zen, 19, was the 13th teenager to be killed in London this year, one away from 14 for the whole of last year. Surpassing 2022’s toll will disappoint Sir Mark, who insists knife crime is still below pre-pandemic levels. The Met is making significant progress by targeting county lines drug dealers, 80 per cent of which have previous arrests for homicide and grievous bodily harm or possessing firearms and weapons. Around 92 per cent of all killings are being solved.
Targeting of women
Some 35,000 reports of violence against women and girls and 8,966 rapes were made in the last year. But Baroness Casey’s report heard how fridges storing forensic samples from rape victims were so full that it took three officers to strap them shut. Sir Mark says the conviction rate for rape has doubled. The force is in the top 25 per cent UK-wide. More than 700 charges have been brought for rape, a 42.2 per cent rise in 12 months. Its backlog of online child abuse cases has been cleared. A database of the 100 most dangerous domestic abusers was created and tactics typically reserved for organised criminals are being used.
Sir Mark’s biggest concern is that he is now losing more officers than he is bringing in. The force is on course to be 1,500 short of the 10,000 target of new officers as part of the Government’s uplift programme. An uneven balance between attrition and recruitment means the force is “going backwards”, Sir Mark said last week citing the Met’s culture, cost of living and wider public sector issues.
From October 31, a decision to stop police from attending most mental health calls will free officers up. Sir Mark is overhauling the force with a £366 million two-year scheme, dubbed A New Met for London.
Hear more on this episode of The Leader podcast:
Listen above, and find us on your Spotify Daily Drive or wherever you stream your podcasts.