Mark Rowley’s dramatic announcement at yesterday’s meeting of the London Assembly police and crime committee that “two or three Met officers a week” will be facing criminal charges over the coming months rightly hit the headlines. But the situation could be even worse.
Crimes now being uncovered could take “two years or more” to work their way through the courts, the new Met Commissioner said, and in addition a probe is underway into a thousand cases over the past 10 years where officers were investigated for sexual misconduct or domestic violence yet remained in the force which could result in yet more action.
At the same time the entire 47,000 strong Met workforce is effectively being re-vetted, a process which could uncover new cases, and new “anti-corruption and abuse” hotlines are receiving “tens of calls a week” – a third of them about other forces – further adding to the caseload.
The process of cleansing the beleaguered force of officers “who corrupt our integrity,”Rowley warned, “won’t be rapid and it will be painful”.
The Commissioner’s frank statement created a sharp with his predecessor Cressida Dick, who was criticised by Sadiq Khan for failing to grasp the depth of the problems besetting the Met, and was welcomed by Conservative committee chair Susan Hall.
Rowley also put the spotlight on leadership failings within the ranks of the Met with other disturbing statistics. “The average army colonel will have had 72 weeks of leadership training since graduating from Sandhurst,” he said. “Our chief superintendents, if they have had a handful they are lucky. There is a lot of work to do to create a leadership that is skilled and confident in dealing with this.”
Answering the committee’s call for him to “play his part”, the Mayor today announced almost £12 million for a new “Met leadership academy” to “better support Met leaders and line managers to tackle performance and standards issues at source”.
A further £2.5 million from City Hall will go towards improving the performance of the Met’s command and control centre, which handles more than six million emergency calls a year. The funding boost was already part of the Mayor’s 2023/24 budget, due for approval next month, which includes a £15 council tax hike going towards policing.
Rowley also warned that the current “operating environment and public debate” is affecting the drive to increase police numbers, with the Met likely to miss its March 2023 recruitment targets, possibly by the “high hundreds”.
The number of officers leaving the force has been going up as well and salary levels have been a factor. “The next pay round is really important,” Rowley said.
The Met’s end of December figures show a total of 34,244 officers in post, with a net increase of some 3,500 between 2019/20 and 2021/22. But while 103 officers were recruited in December, 220 left the force, 15 per cent of officers had under two years’ service, and over a third overall less than five years’.
In another sign of a new openness Rowley is inviting Londoners’ comments during a 12-week consultation on his initial “turnaround” plan, which includes a major boost to neighbourhood policing. It will run until 17 March.
The full police committee meeting can be viewed here.
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