What will be in the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s in-tray?

The new chief will take charge of the Downing Street partygate inquiry and be tasked with improving the culture of the force.

10 February 2022

The new Metropolitan Police commissioner will have a long list of issues to tackle once they take over from former chief Dame Cressida Dick.

The job of the commissioner is to lead the force and be in charge of the capital’s 33,128 officers who police more than nine million Londoners.

According to a job advert for the role in 2017 – when Dame Cressida took over – the commissioner is accountable to the Home Secretary and Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) and “must answer to Londoners and the public nationally, maintaining the highest levels of integrity, transparency and accountability”.

But what will be in the new Commissioner’s in-tray once they take up the new role?

– Partygate

Downing Street partygate
A police investigation is under way into allegations of parties at Downing Street during lockdown (James Manning/PA Wire)

On January 25, Dame Cressida confirmed Scotland Yard would investigate if potential breaches of coronavirus laws took place at a “number of events” in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Before the end of this week, officers from Operation Hillman will begin contacting more than 50 people thought to have been involved in events which are the subject of police inquiries.

Sue Gray’s interim report disclosed that police were investigating 12 different events in No 10 and Whitehall over the course of 2020 and 2021 for possible breaches of Covid rules.

They include a “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 and a gathering in the Prime Minister’s official flat in November 2020.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously stated it was “entirely right” for the force to investigate the allegations of rule-breaking parties.

– Charing Cross message scandal

Independent Office for Police Conduct report
A lamp outside Charing Cross police station in central London (James Manning/PA)

Last week, police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) published offensive WhatsApp and Facebook exchanges between officers primarily based at Charing Cross police station between 2016 and 2018.

The messages, which were uncovered as part of an investigation into behaviour, showed officers making repeated jokes about rape, domestic violence, violent racism, and using homophobic language and derogatory terms for disabled people.

Some 14 officers were investigated as a result, with two found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct. One was sacked and another resigned before he would have been dismissed.

Another two have already left while in some of the other cases the IOPC found “no further action should be taken”.

Two inquiries are under way looking at the culture within the Met – one by Baroness Casey that was organised by the force itself, and a Home Office probe headed by Dame Elish Angiolini, which is looking at the failures behind the rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

– Criticism following Sarah Everard’s death

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard died in March 2021 (Family Handout/CPS/PA)

The abduction, rape and murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive shocked the nation after it was revealed that serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens carried out the attack.

Couzens was handed a whole-life term in September.

The force was also criticised for how it handled a socially-distanced vigil for Ms Everard in Clapham Common last March, which was near where she went missing.

The Angiolini inquiry will look at the “systemic failures” that allowed Couzens to be employed as a police officer.

– Teenage knife deaths at a record high

Police tape
Police tape near a scene of a suspected crime (Peter Byrne/PA)

A total of 30 teenage homicides occurred in London last year, passing a previous peak of 29 set in 2008.

Experts believe the rise in teenage killings is due to societal issues, such as a rise in the number of children who are vulnerable, increased pressure on services such as policing, and social media fuelling conflict.

Reports in October said Home Secretary Priti Patel had set Dame Cressida three targets to meet in order to keep her job, which included statistics to show that serious violence and knife crime in London is falling.

– The force being sued by relatives of Stephen Port victims

Stephen Port murders
Families of those murdered by Stephen Port at the conclusion of their inquest (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In December last year, relatives of the victims of serial killer Stephen Port launched civil claims against the Metropolitan Police over its bungled investigations into their deaths.

Loved ones of the four men accused the Met of homophobia in the way that it handled the investigations, but this has been denied by force chiefs.

It came after inquest jurors found that “fundamental failures” by the police were likely to have contributed to three of the men’s deaths.

Sarah Munro QC, the coroner, published her prevention of future deaths report last month, which said she was “extremely concerned and disappointed by the evidence that I have heard about these series of errors.”

– Concerns over far-right terror threat

 Damian Hinds
Security Minister Damian Hinds (Peter Byrne/PA)

Security minister Damian Hinds suggested in December that the terror threat towards the country may have been made worse by coronavirus lockdowns.

He described how people being holed up in their bedrooms during the restrictions could have pushed them towards radicalisation, which echoed similar warnings from the police and the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

A CTED report published earlier that month warned extremists had “sought to exploit pandemic-related sociocultural restrictions that have led people around the world to spend increasing time online, by strengthening their efforts to spread propaganda, recruit, and radicalise via virtual platforms”.

– The Mayor’s hopes for the future of the force

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has outlined what he hopes will change within the force following the publication of the IOPC’s report into Charing Cross police station.

He tweeted: “We must urgently rebuild Londoners’ trust in the Met and root out the racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny that still exist. To do that, change must start from the very top.”

He described how last week he told Dame Cressida of the “scale of the change” he believed is required but added he was “not satisfied” with her response.

“It’s clear, but the only way to start to deliver the scale of the change required is to have new leadership right at the top of the Metropolitan Police,” he added in an accompanying video.

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