The acting head of London’s Metropolitan Police has admitted the force is grappling with a “wider issue” of cultural problems rather than just “a few bad apples”.
Sir Stephen House, who is temporarily leading the Met after Dame Cressida Dick stepped down, told MPs on Wednesday that he would like to dismiss officers accused of misconduct more quickly rather than waiting for the outcome of often slow-moving criminal cases.
Dick was forced to step down this month following a series of scandals at the Met, including the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman, by Wayne Couzens, then a serving Met officer.
In February, the Independent Office for Police Conduct published a scathing report on a culture of misogyny, racism and homophobia at the Met after uncovering WhatsApp messages shared by officers at London’s Charing Cross police station.
House’s comments to the Commons’ home affairs select committee, his first since taking on the role, are among the most forthright in recent years by a serving senior Met officer about the extent of the force’s cultural problems.
“People have talked about ‘a few bad apples’,” House said in response to questions from Diana Johnson, Labour MP and the committee’s chair. “Quite clearly, that’s not the situation at all. You cannot simply say that Wayne Couzens and a few other people have done something wrong. There’s a wider issue within the organisation.”
House said 76 per cent of Londoners expressed confidence in the Met but in black communities the figure fell to the mid-50s, which was “clearly not acceptable”.
“There’s an issue there,” House told the committee. “We need to address an attitude within the organisation of misogyny, of too many officers being insensitive of race issues, of issues of gender and around sexuality and we need to get more sensitive when dealing with that.”
He added that the force was “working very hard” to deal with the issue and that senior officers were making regular visits around London to set out the leadership’s expectations to officers.
House acknowledged that supervision had been inadequate in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, where Couzens and several other officers who had faced accusations of misconduct worked.
House also expressed frustration at the time taken to dismiss unsuitable officers. He explained that in cases where officers were suspected of gross misconduct constituting a criminal offence, a decision over whether they should continue working could be delayed by as long as 18 months while they were tried.
“I would rather just sack this person now, rather than wait 18 months for them to go to court, possibly get found not guilty, and for the disciplinary process then to proceed,” House said.