OPINION - Met reform: Promising start but the task ahead remains a huge one


Sir Mark Rowley has marked his first year as Met Commissioner by declaring that he’s “really pleased” with his force’s progress on improving the protection of women and girls and listing a series of other successes achieved in the last 12 months.

These include fewer shootings and burglaries, a decline in calls about anti-social behaviour, a reduction in domestic killings and an overall homicide rate far below that of New York and other rival cities.

It’s an upbeat message that the commissioner delivered with an enthusiasm that matches the vigour with which he’s approached his job. But is the situation really so encouraging? There are plenty of doubters and Sir Mark has made clear that his force has a long way to go to root out rogue or incompetent officers, and improve its effectivenesss and public confidence, particularly among the black population.

It’s no surprise why. The Met remains in special measures, imposed by the policing inspectorate over myriad failings including allowing crimes to go unrecorded and errors in stop and search. It was condemned as racist, misogynistic and homophobic in a report this year by Baroness Casey.

Sir Mark has admitted too that there will be many more “ghastly” cases to follow the procession of Met officers already convicted, including the rapists David Carrick and Adam Provan.

Bad enough. But on top of this the Met is affected by the problems in the criminal justice system including court backlogs and failing prisons, which make it harder to secure convictions or rehabilitate those who are jailed.

Societal challenges such as the growth in online crimes ranging from fraud to child abuse add further to the task, while longer-standing challenges range from terrorism to managing public protests fairly.

Sir Mark’s job won’t be helped either if policing turns into a political football as the general election and next year’s mayoral election near.

On the positive side, politicians on all sides retain faith in him and there’s no evidence anyone else would do better. That’s only for now though. The pressure for far more progress is bound to intensify as the months pass. Sir Mark’s task remains gargantuan.