Regaining public trust is ‘number one’ priority for Met – watchdog

Chief inspector of constabulary Andy Cooke said: ‘We all know that there is a lot of work to be done.’

Stock photo of Metropolitan Police recruits marching during a Metropolitan Police passing out parade for new officers at Peel House in Hendon (Nick Ansell/PA)
Stock photo of Metropolitan Police recruits marching during a Metropolitan Police passing out parade for new officers at Peel House in Hendon (Nick Ansell/PA)

The Metropolitan Police needs to urgently take steps to regain the public’s confidence and trust, the chief inspector of constabulary has said after the force was put into special measures.

Andy Cooke said this was a “number one” priority for the force after it was named as one of six currently under special measures amid a series of failures, which means it is subject to “enhanced monitoring” by the police watchdog and tasked with drawing up an improvement plan.

The UK’s largest police force was signed up to the so-called “engage” process last month, alongside Wiltshire and Staffordshire. They joined Gloucestershire, which has been in special measures since last year, Greater Manchester (2020) and Cleveland (2019).

When asked what urgently needs to improve at the Met, Mr Cooke told the PA news agency: “Number one is confidence and trust. Absolutely.”

The new chief inspector of constabulary Andy Cooke (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He added: “We all know that there’s a lot of work to be done around regaining that confidence and trust … The new commissioner will certainly have a challenging job on their hands.”

Scotland Yard “crossed the threshold” into special measures after “persistent concerns” about its performance, including incidents which “raised issues around confidence and trust” such as the extensive criticism it faced after the death of Sarah Everard, who was abducted and murdered by serving Met police officer Wayne Couzens, the Charing Cross police station scandal and questions over corruption after the inquiry into the Daniel Morgan probe.

An inspection report detailing further concerns is expected to be published in September.

Mr Cooke, a former chief constable of Merseyside Police who is just under three months into his role at the head of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which scrutinises the effectiveness and efficiency of forces and fire services, insisted “policing isn’t failing” despite the highest number of forces on record being placed in special measures.

The forces subject to “enhanced monitoring” are there because of “specific reasons” but “not because the whole organisation isn’t working as it should”, Mr Cooke said, adding: “It is the most forces at any one time that have been in this process. But it may be that some of those forces will be out of the process quite quickly as well.

“It depends how they respond to the action plan that we give and the approach they take to actually improving those parts of business that we don’t believe are serving the public to the extent that they should be.”

While it is an “undoubtedly challenging time for policing at the moment” in light of “increased demand”, the recruitment drive to hire 20,000 more officers by 2023 as well as “low outcomes and detections” and “the reduction in confidence and trust”, Mr Cooke said: “Policing isn’t failing.”

Forces must now produce improvement plans and work with policing bodies while facing continual scrutiny from the watchdog. If their progress is not sufficient, Mr Cooke can raise his concerns with local policing boards or even urge the Home Secretary to step in and issue directions to the forces in question.

But these steps are not yet being considered and forces will first be given the chance to improve.

Mr Cooke added: “The vast majority of forces are really keeping people safe, being professional, being compassionate and doing the right things in difficult circumstances.

“So the police can be trusted and I believe the police can be trusted to get themselves back into a position where they have increased confidence and trust from the public.”

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