The Casey Review reveals the grim reality of police violence
Donna McLean reports on the appalling reality of police violence in Britain.
Louise Casey’s damning review into the Metropolitan police was published today. The 300-page report – commissioned after the murder of Sarah Everard in 2021 by Wayne Couzens – finds that the force has institutional problems with racism, misogyny and homophobia. Casey does not mince her words, addressing the toxic culture of bullying and harassment, and the inability of senior leadership to address problems. The Met was already under special measures but is now categorically in last-chance saloon territory and ultimately faces the prospect of being disbanded and broken up into smaller forces.
Casey addresses four key areas of concern – leadership, recruitment, vetting and culture. As well as noting the appalling failures of the Met to recognise the danger posed by serial rapist PC David Carrick and firearms officer Couzens, the review re-addresses the findings of the 2021 inquiry into the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan, that found the force to be ‘institutionally corrupt’.
Since he took over as Commissioner in September, Mark Rowley says he’s been committed to cleaning up the reputation of the Met. His predecessor, Cressida Dick, left in disgrace, the force in special measures, but still with a fat payout. Many of us looked on aghast as Dick rose to the top, not least because of her role in the catastrophic order to shoot Jean Charles de Menezes dead in south London in 2007. The de Menezes family were subsequently spied on by the Met’s undercover political policing unit, an experience I know about only too well.
Casey finds the Met’s management style to be ‘incoherent’ and ‘un-strategic’. Unfortunately, Rowley hasn’t got off to a better strategic start. He claims he never witnessed any of the bullying/ corruption/ abuse that is so prevalent in the force. In 36 years? Come on now, Sir Mark. Today, on publication of the report, he still won’t accept that racism, sexism and homophobia are institutional. I’m not feeling optimistic about his next managerial move.
Recruitment is also addressed in detail by Casey. Tory austerity cuts were made right across the criminal justice system, and by the end of the last decade police numbers fell to a thirty-year low. The Met decided to take a somewhat-risky rapid recruitment approach. To achieve this, face-to-face interviews were abandoned. Yes, you read that correctly. This removed what most of us would consider to be an intrinsic part of the process – especially for a job that requires trust, honesty, integrity, not being an out and out sociopath, etc.
While this is clearly insane, it won’t stop my internal alarm bells ringing if they now introduce proper vetting. Look how long Carrick was in the force? Consider the whole spycops scandal, which dates right back to 1968 and continued for 40 years.
The issues around vetting are multi-faceted. After assessing a random sample of officers, HMIC Matt Parr said that one in 10 cops should never have made it through. This indicates that there are hundreds of unsafe people carrying warrant cards who should never have been cleared to join the police. Existing officers should be re-vetted once a decade, but this policy clearly isn’t being adhered to. As Casey says, the procedures do not safeguard in the case of ‘those who seek power in order to abuse it’. Complaints against serving officers are poorly documented, if at all, and generally lead nowhere. Concerning patterns of behaviour – which could have stopped both Couzens and Carrick – are not identified. Incidents that in normal workplaces would lead to gross misconduct are often dealt with via woolly interventions such as ‘reflective practice’. An eye-watering lack of accountability has allowed ‘predatory and unacceptable behaviour’ to thrive.
The Met’s problems are way more prevalent than the force has ever been willing to admit. The notion of a few bad apples – which we activists have challenged for decades – has now been acknowledged by most commentators as ludicrous. Daily reports on the horrifying culture of misogyny, racism and homophobia have completely altered public consciousness around the behaviour of the boys in blue. I remember the response to our campaign with LUSH, back in 2018. The so-called blue-light family instigated its pile on. I retorted that there wasn’t much blue light solidarity when the police were spying on the Fire Brigades Union.
In her report, Casey is crystal clear that ‘… systems support wrongdoers [and] racist, misogynist, homophobic and other discriminatory acts are tolerated, ignored, or dismissed as banter.’ This toxic culture allows no safety-net for whistle-blowers, and in the culture of bullying fact renders anyone who stands up to racism, sexism or homophobia unsafe.
Rowley stated this year that two or three police officers will face trial every week until 2025 for crimes such as violence against women. I’m willing to bet that that is a superficial cull and the deeply toxic culture that has covered up deaths in custody, encouraged miscarriages of justice and allowed killers to roam free will persist until the entire force is disbanded.
Those of us who are victim-survivors of male violence, and/ or work in the field, know that crimes committed by serving officers such as domestic abuse or sexual offences are absolutely crucial warning signs that more offences will follow. Those of us who are survivors of male police violence and/ or sexual abuse have been asking for a long time who we can safely turn to when we have been assaulted, stalked or harassed by a man. Nothing in the Met’s response to the Casey Review reassures me that any of us will feel safer, any time soon.