The Metropolitan police must take a “zero-tolerance” approach to misogyny and racism and enable offending officers to be sacked more easily, a report into culture and standards at Britain’s biggest police force will say on Monday.
The long-awaited report by Louise Casey into how Scotland Yard deals with officers accused of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse has uncovered systemic failings that have allowed too many “abhorrent” individuals to remain on the frontline.
Lady Casey, a former Whitehall troubleshooter, was appointed last year after a string of scandals at the Met, most notably the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving Met officer. Couzens used his police warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Everard from a London street before strangling her with his belt.
Couzens had been accused of exposing himself four times at a takeaway in January and February last year, months before he kidnapped and murdered Everard. In her report, Casey will point out that perpetrators often start with lower-level offences before their behaviour escalates.
Couzens appeared in court on exposure charges earlier this month but was not asked to enter pleas due to the barristers’ strike.
More than half of the Met officers found guilty of sexual misconduct over a four-year period up to 2020 kept their jobs. “The line on what should qualify for dismissal needs to be redrawn,” said a source familiar with the review.
Casey will argue that trust in the Met has been severely damaged by the failure to identify and dismiss misogynists, abusers and racists. “Much of what has got them in hot water has been the fact that they can’t sort out their misconduct system. It isn’t good enough,” said a separate source familiar with the review.
They added: “Although it’s about individual officers’ behaviour, it’s also an area where there are systemic problems. It’s about the Met setting out really clear standards of what is acceptable and what isn’t, and making sure everyone understands that.”
Critics have argued that evidence of “vulgar and sexist” WhatsApp group messages involving police contractors and officers have too often been ignored. After Everard’s murder, it emerged that Couzens belonged to a WhatsApp group that shared offensive misogynist and racist messages.
Casey, a former homelessness and antisocial behaviour tsar, also identifies the corrosive impact on public trust of having scores of officers on the frontline despite having committed or been accused of sexual assault, domestic abuse or racism.
“They’ve got people in the organisation that they shouldn’t have. You can’t trust an officer if you think his WhatsApps might contain what he thinks about women or black people. It’s fundamental,” a source added.
The response of Scotland Yard, say sources close to the review, will be key to showing that its new commissioner, Mark Rowley, is serious about addressing what critics call an embedded misogynistic culture.
Rowley, aware of the need to quickly rebuild trust in the Met, said this month that he would be “ruthless in rooting out those corrupting officers and staff, including racists and misogynists”. Last week his force appeared to lay the ground for Casey’s findings by sharing the work of its new domestic and sexual offences unit, set up in January to investigate officers accused of such offences.
More than 600 sexual and domestic abuse allegations against officers are being investigated by the Met.
The fact that hundreds of officers are under investigation indicates the scale of Rowley’s challenge but also, say sources, presents a potential manpower issue if significant numbers are forced to leave.
Casey’s work also raises the question of what to do with officers previously found guilty of racist and misogynistic offences.
“In cases where they have been found guilty but it’s short of dismissal, it might be hard for the Met to go back and reset the boundaries. There’s also obviously a difference between views that might be a bit outdated and stuff that’s clearly overtly racist, sexist and offensive. There’s clearly a line,” said a source familiar with the review.