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Racism, Islamophobia, Rape Threats: London’s Met Police Needs Structural Reforms

What led to Dame Cressida Dick’s resignation and who will succeed her?

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Racism, Islamophobia, Rape Threats: London’s Met Police Needs Structural Reforms
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Much like their prime minister, Britain’s largest police force is also grappling with one crisis after another.

On Thursday, 10 February, Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick announced her resignation. It came on the back of systemic failures within the organisation, an independent investigation that unearthed evidence of bullying and harassment in the force and started a new power tussle between the home secretary and the mayor of London.

In her statement, the first female officer of the Met Police noted that London Mayor Sadiq Khan had lost confidence in her leadership and thus, she had decided to step down.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is responsible for appointing a new Met chief, was reportedly unaware of the said resignation until it was publicly announced. Although, the Met chief is appointed by the home secretary, it is done so with inputs from the London mayor.

The home secretary has said that she will select someone who is committed to “beating and preventing crime, protecting our citizens, our streets and communities”. While, Sadiq Khan in his column for The Observer, warned that Dame Cressida's successor must have a "proper and robust plan" to deal with the Met's shortcomings. The timing of her departure is most unfortunate as it arrives after criticism of the Met’s initial reluctance to investigate Downing Street and other government parties that were held during coronavirus restrictions.

But beyond the politics of it all, what are the reasons for the Met chief’s resignation and why is the Met Police in urgent need of structural reforms?

Racism, Discrimination, And Islamophobia

The Met under Dame Cressida’s leadership has been under constant scrutiny for allegations around racial profiling, increased use of stop and search powers, and charges of discrimination. She has repeatedly denied that the force is institutionally racist.

But several ethnic minority officers have also previously spoken about the culture of bullying, harassment, and abuse.

In 2020, Nusrit Mehtab, a top female Asian officer quit Met Police after complaining of a "toxic workplace". She is reportedly suing the force for constructive dismissal, race, sex and religious discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. She went on to allege that institutional racism and sexism were preventing further promotion and that colleagues and bosses, including Commissioner Dick, only paid lip service to diversity.

In an interview with Sky News, she said, “It was apparent that many white officers found it very difficult to take orders from me as a woman of colour who was also a Muslim. Being racist and sexist, they found it too humiliating. Fortunately, an order is an order and no one threw it back in my face and risked being disciplined for insubordination, but they made my job as difficult as they could behind my back.”

The Quint reached out to Mehtab who is suing the force for £500,000 to seek further updates on her case which is believed to be with the employment tribunal. But she could not be reached.

Other officers from ethnic minority backgrounds who have previously raised alarm bells on similar grounds include Former Chief Superintendent Dal Babu, Former Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, and retired Shabnam Chaudhri to name a few.

In her book, Black and Blue: One Woman's Story of Policing and Prejudice, Parm Sandhu has chronicled in detail how her 30 years at the force were chequered with fighting entrenched racism and sexism.

Thus, these allegations are not new. But something more sinister came up in a watchdog investigation into misconduct at the Charing Cross Police Station.

Operation Hotton And Rape Threats

Led by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), Operation Hotton was started in March 2018. The report found that police officers had shared messages of vile behavior including confessions of committing domestic abuse and misuse of steroids. It found text and WhatsApp chats between officers which were highly sexualised, discriminatory, or referred to as violence, which officers often defended as ‘banter’.

In one of the messages, a male officer to a female colleague said, “I would happily rape you”. Another message noted, “Just walked past the big mosque all the fanatics turn up at to radicalize the young Muslims...”

All these conclusions are particularly alarming in the wake of the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, by Met firearms officer Wayne Couzens last March. Although the team at Charing Cross is no longer functional, the IOPC said it believed “these incidents are not isolated or simply the behavior of a few bad apples”.

It has also made a series of fifteen recommendations to the Met Police. The watchdog in its report has suggested that the Met officials review training and guidance around bullying and harassment itself. It also suggested metrics should be introduced to measure and demonstrate “improvements made in tackling bullying and harassment”.

Following the report, Dame Cressida had asked all racist, homophobic, and misogynist officers to “leave now”. But in doing so, she decided to step down after holding a meeting with the London Mayor.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Dal Babu had said Dick’s replacement would need to “show some tough love” to the force. He said, “The new commissioner needs . . . to be prepared to listen to the internal organization [of the Met] but also listen to the community concerns. Cress was tone-deaf to what the community concerns were.”

Both politicians – one Labour (Sadiq Khan), the other Conservative (Priti Patel) – have demonstrated their despair and annoyance with the pre-existing culture in the Met Police. Now both have their tasks cut out in front of them of appointing someone who will be required to introduce some statutory changes.

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Who Can Replace Cressida Dick?

Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and a former senior Met officer is touted as a favourite among the Tories. His military background certainly gives him an edge.

Another prominent name doing the circles is Neil Basu, an assistant commissioner who previously worked as head of counter-terrorism. He is popular among his officers and would be the first minority ethnic commissioner to hold the fort. Lucy D'Orsi previously a senior officer at the Met Police and who oversaw security during Chinese leader Xi Jinping's 2015 visit to the UK is another name doing the rounds.

Others include Matt Jukes, assistant Met Police commissioner working as head of counter-terrorism, Simon Byrne, Mark Rowley, and Dave Thompson.

Whoever replaces Dame Cressida Dick, the new Met chief will carry the burdens of bringing structural reforms within an institution that denies itself to be racist, sexist, and discriminatory.

(With inputs from Evening Standard, Sky News, Financial Times and The Guardian.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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