Met Police racism, misogyny and harassment uncovered by watchdog’s probe

IOPC investigation began in March 2018 after officer accused of having sex with drunk person at police station

<p>The Metropolitan Police has been told to ‘publicly’ commit to being an anti-racist organisation after a string of investigations uncovered evidence of bullying, racism and misogyny within its ranks</p>

The Metropolitan Police has been told to ‘publicly’ commit to being an anti-racist organisation after a string of investigations uncovered evidence of bullying, racism and misogyny within its ranks

Metropolitan Police officers exchanged racist, sexist and homophobic messages including references to rape which they defended as “banter”, a watchdog has found.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) uncovered WhatsApp and Facebook messages referring to rape, including “I would happily rape you” and “if I was single I would happily chloroform you”, after reviewing thousands of exchanges.

Homophobic language such as “f*** you bender” was also used, while messages included references to officers attending a festival dressed as known sex offenders and a molested child.

The IOPC said the messages were often defended as “banter”, which “became a cover for bullying and harassment”.

The messages were discovered as part of the watchdog’s Operation Hotton probe, which began in March 2018 following a conduct referral alleging an officer had sex with a drunk person at a police station.

As the investigation expanded, other concerns were identified involving officers mostly based at Charing Cross police station who worked on now-disbanded teams dealing with crime and disorder in Westminster.

Allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment of other police officers, officers having sex while on duty, and the use of steroids were investigated.

Concerns had also been raised about a police officer assaulting his partner and demonstrating misogynist behaviour and actions, the deletion of material relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation, and a failure to report, challenge or appropriately deal with such allegations.

Of the 14 officers investigated, two were dismissed for gross misconduct and put on the barred list, preventing future employment with the police, while another two resigned and several others faced disciplinary action.

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “The behaviour we uncovered was disgraceful and fell well below the standards expected of the officers involved. While these officers predominantly worked in teams in Westminster, which have since been disbanded, we know from other recent cases that these issues are not isolated or historic.

“The learning report we are publishing today is shocking and contains language which is offensive – and some may find it upsetting. However, we felt it was important to provide the context for the public, the Met and other forces, for why such hard-hitting recommendations are necessary.”

He added: “Our investigation showed the officers’ use of ‘banter’ became a cover for bullying and harassment. Colleagues were afraid to speak out about these behaviours for fear of being ostracised, demeaned or told to get another job.

“We are grateful to those officers who were brave enough to speak to us about the cultural issues that existed within these teams, realising that in doing so they risked further bullying. This took courage. Hopefully our learning report and recommendations will give officers the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that people are listening and that changes will be made.”

Deputy assistant commissioner Bas Javid said: “I am angry and disappointed to see officers involved in sharing sexist, racist and discriminatory messages. It’s clear we have a lot of work to do to ensure bullying and discrimination does not exist in any part of the Met.

“The actions of these officers between 2016 and 2018 were unacceptable, unprofessional, disrespectful and deeply offensive. I read their messages with increasing disgust and shame.

“We haven’t waited for the IOPC’s report to take action – a number of officers have been subject to misconduct proceedings, including one officer dismissed and one who would have been dismissed had he not already resigned. Every Met employee has also been spoken to about responsible use of social media.

“We recognise that there is need for real change in the Met and we are committed to creating an environment that is even more intolerant to those who do not uphold the high values and standards expected of us.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I am utterly disgusted by the behaviour outlined in this IOPC report, which details the shocking evidence of discrimination, misogyny, harassment and bullying by police officers.

“The conduct of these officers was totally unacceptable and what has been revealed by these investigations will only further damage public trust and confidence in the police.

“It is right that the team concerned has been disbanded and the police officers found to be involved have been dismissed, disciplined or have left the police.

“Anyone found to be responsible for sexism, racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, antisemitism, bullying or harassment does not deserve to wear the Met uniform and must be rooted out.”

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick last year announced Baroness Casey to lead an independent review of culture and standards in the force following the murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens.

There have been calls for Ms Dick to resign to improve women’s confidence in the force amid accusations she has failed to tackle a culture of misogyny. The mother of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, whose bodies were photographed by Met officers in a park in west London, is among critics who have called for her to go.

Commenting on the watchdog’s findings, home secretary Priti Patel said the standards of police “must be raised”.

“Being a police officer is a privilege which has been abused by these sickening officers,” she said. “It has been clear for some time that there are problems with the culture of the Metropolitan Police, which is why last year I tasked the Angiolini Inquiry and the police inspectorate with investigating these deeply concerning issues.

“I expect the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London to implement the recommendations of this report as soon as practically possible.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the report had uncovered “appalling behaviour by officers” and that the IOPC’s recommendations needed to go further.

“This kind of abuse, racism, misogyny, bullying and disrespect is a disgrace and should never have any place within policing, where the highest standards must always be maintained,” she said. “It must be rooted out swiftly wherever it is found.”

She added: “While the IOPC has made important and welcome recommendations and some action has been taken, this does not go far enough. There needs to be action by police forces to ensure that training and vetting are improved, that a strong culture of respect is always maintained, and that the use of social media is reviewed and, where necessary, overhauled.”

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