New Met Police commissioner criticised for not addressing race or violence against women in statement

Retired senior police officer says new Met commissioner must ‘confront’ issues around racism and sexism

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Monday 11 July 2022 12:11 BST
Comments
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, says Sir Mark will be policing a city ‘where confidence in the police – especially among women and people of colour – has plummeted’
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, says Sir Mark will be policing a city ‘where confidence in the police – especially among women and people of colour – has plummeted’ (PA Wire)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The new Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has been criticised for failing to mention violence against women or race in the statement addressing his appointment.

Leading charities in the women’s sector told The Independent the decision to appoint a new leader of Britain’s largest police force “means nothing” unless misogyny and racism within policing was explicitly “named”.

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, said Sir Mark, the former National Police Chiefs Council’s counterterrorism lead, will be policing a city “where confidence in the police – especially among women and people of colour – has plummeted”.

Ms Creasy added: “If he wants to renew policing by consent he needs to start by acknowledging that and making tackling the violence they are facing a clear priority.”

Her comments come after the police have faced sustained criticism for failing to properly tackle violence against women and girls within their own ranks in the wake of Sarah Everard being kidnapped, raped and murdered by a serving Met officer.

Sir Mark Rowley told The Independent he was “determinedly serious” about issues around race and violence against women, as well as wider challenges to trust and confidence.

Harriet Wistrich, an award-winning human rights lawyer, told The Independent it was “disappointing” that Sir Mark’s statement “makes no explicit mention of the fact that, in order to restore trust in the Metropolitan Police, he must take a zero-tolerance approach to misogyny and racism within its ranks”.

Ms Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, added: “It is the exposure of a rotten culture within the Met and the lack of explicit commitment to tackle it that led to Cressida Dick’s downfall. This explicit commitment is critical if he wants to achieve policing by consent.”

Nick Glynn, a retired senior police officer, argued that the new commissioner, who departed the Met in 2018, must “confront, challenge and acknowledge” issues around racism and sexism, adding that they needed to do this “right from the start”.

Mr Glynn warned that “confidence is at an all-time low” among Londoners. He argued that people needed to believe Sir Mark was going to tackle these issues, which were “plaguing the Met and police in general”.

An overwhelming number of police failings relate to sexual violence and domestic abuse, and abuse of power for sexual purposes is now the single biggest form of corruption dealt with by the police complaints body

Andrea Simon

Not mentioning race or violence against women and girls “is either an unfortunate omission or a big mistake right at the start of his tenure”, the ex-officer, who specialises in police force racial profiling, stop and search and policing accountability, added.

A spokesperson for the Women's Equality Party, said: “It doesn't bode well that the very first opportunity for the new Met commissioner to showcase his priorities completely neglected to acknowledge women or race.

“It begs the question, is this appointment more of the very same failures that drove the Met to be placed in special measures in the first place?”

In a statement responding to his appointment on Friday, Sir Mark said he was “deeply honoured” to be appointed as the commissioner.

“Our mission is to lead the renewal of policing by consent, which has been so heavily dented in recent years as trust and confidence have fallen,” he added.

“I am grateful that the home secretary and mayor are both determined to support the urgent reforms we need to deliver successful community crimefighting in today’s fast-moving world. These reforms include our use of technology and data, our culture and our policing approach. We will fight crime with communities – not unilaterally dispense tactics.”

Sir Mark, who has spent three decades working in policing, said that the “majority of officers and staff” had an “extraordinary sense of vocation and determination and want us to do better”.

He added: “It is my job to help them do that, while also being ruthless in removing those who are corrupting our integrity.

“We will deliver more trust, less crime and high standards for London and beyond, and we will work with London’s diverse communities as we together renew the uniquely British invention of ‘policing by consent’.”

When asked abut the criticism by The Independent, Sir Mark said he believed that people had misinterpreted his statement, adding: “I don’t think my statement could have been more serious about the challenges to policing by consent as trust and confidence have been so seriously dented and the consequent need to work with London’s diverse communities in tackling crime. [I am] determinedly serious about critical issues such as VAWG and race.”

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women and Girls Coalition, said: “It’s imperative that the new commissioner shows strong leadership and accountability in addressing the Met’s poor record in responding to violence against women and girls.

“An overwhelming number of police failings relate to sexual violence and domestic abuse, and abuse of power for sexual purposes is now the single biggest form of corruption dealt with by the police complaints body.”

Ms Simon warned that the police “also have a case to answer on the appalling practice of strip-searching minors, which disproportionately impacts Black children”.

Jacqui Hunt, head of Equality Now's London office, told The Independent there had been a number of “shocking examples of systemic sexism, racism and misogyny” in the Met in recent years and noted that the force was recently placed in special measures.

Ms Hunt added: “And alongside conviction rates for sexual and gender-based violence being abysmally low in London, it is clear that there are deep-rooted problems within the capital’s police force that need to be addressed immediately.

“To tackle these institutional failures, it is vital that a root-and-branch overhaul is carried out and a zero-tolerance approach applied. By failing to mention women or race in his opening statement, London’s new commissioner has missed an important opportunity to set out his intentions in this regard.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in