Met police placed in special measures due to litany of new ‘systemic’ failings

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA</span>
Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The policing inspectorate’s unprecedented decision to place the Metropolitan police into special measures followed the uncovering of a litany of new “systemic” failings in fighting crime and serving victims, with tens of thousands of crimes going unrecorded and errors in stop and search.

The decision was taken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and follows an inspection that found 14 fresh significant failings, coming on top of a flood of scandals “chilling” in their damage to public confidence.

The results of that inspection will be published soon, but can be revealed by the Guardian. They include nearly 70,000 crimes going unrecorded by the Met, Britain’s biggest force which covers most of London.

Furthermore, the force was found to be failing to meet national standards, and also making errors on stop and search with the grounds for one quarter of stops not recorded, thus thwarting scrutiny of whether they were justifiable.

HMIC also cited a series of scandals: from the murder of Sarah Everard by the serving Met officer Wayne Couzens; the strip-searching of innocent children such as Child Q; stop and search controversies such as that of the champion athlete Bianca Williams; and grossly offensive attitudes among officials revealed by messages exchanged between officers at Charing Cross police station.

It also noted the “seemingly incomprehensible failures to recognise and treat appropriately a series of suspicious deaths in the Stephen Port case”.

A letter dated 28 June by Matt Parr, from the inspectorate, sets out the full reasons to place the Met in special measures, which is officially called “engage”. It was sent to Sir Stephen House, acting commissioner of the Met after the ousting of Cressida Dick in February by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, who believed she lacked a plan to restore confidence.

The two held crisis talks last Friday where the Met leadership were told they would face the dramatic intervention by HMIC. It is all the more painful for Scotland Yard as many in its leadership felt criticism of the force was unfair and they had a plan to pull the force out of perpetual crisis.

In the letter, seen by the Guardian, Parr details the 14 new failings and areas of concern:

  • “Performance falling far short of national standards for the handling of emergency and non-emergency calls, including too many instances of failure to assess vulnerability and repeat victimisation, failures to provide crime prevention advice and failures to properly advise victims on how to preserve evidence.”

  • “A barely adequate standard of crime recording accuracy, with an estimated 69,000 crimes going unrecorded each year, less than half of crime recorded within 24 hours, and almost no crimes recorded when victims report antisocial behaviour against them.”

  • Failing to tell some victims investigations into their crime were being dropped.

  • Not seeking or considering victims’ views.

  • Poor supervision of some investigations and failures in public protection.

Furthermore, the force that considers itself a leader in law enforcement was told in the letter there were concerns about “a persistently large backlog of online child abuse referrals”, “an insufficient understanding of the force’s training requirements” and concerns about how it manages its assets, resources and how the Met understands the demands it faces.

On stop and search, Parr’s letter to the acting Met commissioner said: “In roughly a quarter of stop and search cases, failure to record the grounds for the search in sufficient detail to enable an independent judgment to be made as to whether reasonable grounds existed.”

The letter says the official policing inspectorate has “for a considerable time … had substantial and persistent concerns about several aspects of the MPS’ [Met’s] performance.”

It cites the inspection after the Daniel Morgan report into corruption and the Met that found serious failings. But the inspectorate adds: “The gravity of the matter is amplified by the presence of a relatively young, inexperienced workforce – a consequence of the MPS’ increased recruitment enabled by the police uplift programme.”

The Met has been rocked by a series of scandals and public confidence has fallen during the five years Dick was commissioner. Parr wrote: “There are also several examples of high-profile incidents – some recent, some less so – that raise ongoing concerns about the force’s performance, or that are likely to have a chilling effect on public trust and confidence in the MPS (and, in some instances, both).”

Parr says the Met has successes, but they are outweighed by the problems: “Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of so many concerns has prompted us to move the force into Engage.”

In a statement the Met said: “We recognise the cumulative impact of events and problems that the Met is dealing with. We understand the impact this has had on communities and we share their disappointment.

“We are determined to be a police service Londoners can be proud of. We are talking to the Inspectorate about next steps.”

The family of Child Q, whose treatment by the Met caused outrage, said: “The Metropolitan police has shown time and again that it cannot do its job properly and its officers’ actions have had life-changing, devastating consequences for innocent people across London, including Child Q. It is no wonder that there is little to no faith left in the Metropolitan police.”

Next month the new Met commissioner is expected to be announced and the last two candidates are Sir Mark Rowley, a former head of counter-terrorism who left policing in 2018, and Nick Ephgrave, an assistant commissioner in the Met who led local policing.

Last week they went before a board and will soon be interviewed by the home secretary, Priti Patel, who makes the appointment having regard to the views of the mayor of London.

Both Patel and Khan have longstanding concerns about the Met.

In a statement Patel welcomed the Met being put into special measures, saying: “The process to recruit a new commissioner is well under way and I have made clear that the successful candidate must demonstrate sustained improvements in the Metropolitan police service in order to regain public trust both in London and across the country.”

In a statement the policing inspectorate confirmed the special measures for the Met to provide “additional scrutiny and support ​to help make improvements”.

In a statement Khan said: “The HMIC has raised very serious concerns about the Met’s performance and I welcome the additional scrutiny and support that these measures will now bring. Unlike many others, I have long been clear that wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed for the Met to regain the trust and confidence of Londoners – which is so vital to policing by consent.”

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