Revealed: Met police trainees’ violence and dishonesty

Cressida Dick backs Hendon methods, despite leaked documents and internal sources revealing alarming incidents and poor applicants

The head of the Metropolitan police, Cressida Dick, has been forced to defend recruitment standards as leaked documents reveal cases of violent disorder, cheating and dishonesty among trainees at Britain’s biggest police force.

The incidents relate to recruits at the Met’s main training centre and will raise concerns about its ability to provide an effective service as sources within the force allege declining standards for trainees as recruitment has been ramped up.

One leaked document shows that, in July last year, a female recruit at the Met’s Hendon Police College was detained after punching and headbutting a police officer while allegedly under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Other documents reveal instances of dishonesty amongst recruits and emerge weeks after the force was accused of “institutional corruption” following an inquiry into the unsolved murder of a private detective.

The revelations will place fresh pressure on the Met and its embattled chief after a week in which Dick was roundly criticised after ticketless supporters stormed the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, the latest in a litany of scandals to hit the force.

The documents reveal that during an internal question-and-answer session in July last year, Dick was forced to deny rumours that an entire intake of Hendon recruits had failed the initial selection process but were still given a start date because “the Met needed the numbers”.

One officer asked her: “This has obviously raised concerns [about] the level/standard of officer we will get coming through recruit training.”

In her subsequent response, dated 29 July 2020, Dick said: “I can reassure you this rumour is not true. We are in no way reducing recruitment standards.”

However a source within the Hendon training centre told the Observer: “Standards have slipped dramatically. It is deeply concerning to many of the trainers and senior officers in the Met who want the force to uphold the highest of standards.”

A Met spokesman, however, “strongly refuted” any suggestion that standards of recruitment or recruit training had fallen.

The source also cited ongoing concerns within the Met that trainers have become more lenient with badly behaved trainees because of difficulties in attracting high-quality applicants. Again, the allegations were vehemently denied, with the Met saying it was “absolutely not struggling to recruit officers” and was attracting hundreds of applications each month with none allowed to start training unless they had passed a rigorous assessment process.

On Friday night Met officer Wayne Couzens was sacked with immediate effect after pleading guilty to abducting and murdering Sarah Everard in March. However, questions remain over how he was accepted into the Met and whether adequate vetting was carried out.

In April another Met recruit, Benjamin Hannam, was convicted of joining a neo-Nazi terrorist group and of lying on his application and vetting forms to join the force.

The allegations around the Hendon centre come as the force attempts to rapidly train recruits to meet its part of Boris Johnson’s promise to add an additional 20,000 officers in England and Wales. The Met has more than 8,000 applications which are being progressed, with the force on track to recruit more than 3,000 new officers this financial year.

The documents, seen by the Observer, show that in May last year a female recruit was allowed to continue with her training after being discovered cheating in relation to a “knowledge retention exam”, known as KRE-3, then lying about her actions.

In an initial internal report about the incident, a senior officer said: “We now have a situation where this officer has cheated and then lied.

“That, for me, is the most serious of breaches of standards. Honesty and integrity … we must not tolerate this abuse of trust.”

In March 2020, another trainee police officer admitted cheating in an MG11 assessment – which measures an officer’s ability to take an accurate witness statement – by copying another trainee’s work.

When the trainee admitted cheating he was allowed to restart his training after being warned “about his integrity and the serious implications of evidence writing when he is on the streets”. The Met said, after being subject to formal action, the trainee resigned.

In the same month, two student police officers were caught cheating in an exam and investigated by the Met’s directorate of professional standards.

After admitting cheating to a senior officer, one of the students was made to resit the exam, which they passed, and received a formal warning. The second trainee officer suspected of cheating resigned.

In another case, from June last year, a trainee police officer was questioned by senior officers after being caught bragging about using a “gooseneck” wrist lock – a pain compliance technique – to restrain a shoplifter when off duty.

When asked to explain his actions and why they did not document it using an official system “use of force” form, the trainee said he had attempted to stop a man from stealing perfume.

Later he changed his story and told senior officers that “he had made it all up” and added that “to make friends he exaggerates and lies”. The trainee later resigned.

The recruit who headbutted an officer last July was immediately suspended from duty and, after pleading guilty to the offences, was sentenced and dismissed from the Met.

The latest revelations about dishonesty among trainees come at a time when there are rising concerns about criminality among UK police.

In May Met officer Kashif Mahmood, who used his position to help a criminal gang seize money from other offenders, was jailed for eight years.

A Met statement said: “We set the very highest standards for our officers of the future as well as our current workforce.

“Of the thousands of new recruits the Met trains every year, a very small number fall below the expected standards of performance and conduct. They are dealt with appropriately, on a case-by-case basis and, where appropriate, cases will be referred to the Met police’s directorate of professional standards.”

It added that any deviation from the “highest standards of professionalism” was quickly dealt with and could result in dismissal from the force.

It also said new recruits undergo an extensive two- to three-year initial training course in line with the national police curriculum set by the College of Policing and accredited by four London universities.


Wil Crisp and Mark Townsend

The GuardianTramp

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