New Met chief boosts ‘Line of Duty’ unit to root out prejudice and corruption

Exclusive: Mark Rowley has 100-day plan to turn force around after it was placed into special measures

The new Metropolitan police commissioner is recruiting scores of new investigators to root out prejudiced and corrupt officers, the Guardian has learned.

Mark Rowley starts on Monday and will launch a 100-day plan to turn Britain’s biggest force around after it became mired in repeated crises and was humiliatingly judged to be so poor it was placed into special measures by the official inspectorate.

He replaces Cressida Dick, who was ousted in February with the Met facing demands from government and the London mayor to radically reform and drop its defensiveness.

Rowley aims to increase the proportion of crimes the Met solves and boost the number of officers in local neighbourhoods to build relations. He is seeking to lift public confidence, which crashed in the last five years under Dick.

The big drive against prejudiced and corrupt officers will see a boost of more than 30% in the number of investigators in the Met’s own “Line of Duty unit”, known as the directorate of professional standards (DPS).

Scandals that rocked the Met and public trust in it include a serving officer kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard in March 2021.

There have been scandals over vile hate messages exchanged between officers on social media platforms, some bragging about violence against women, some overtly racist and in one case swapping images taken by officers at the scene where two sisters lay murdered.

Rowley’s plans will see more than 130 new investigators recruited into DPS, with more covert work planned and its technical capabilities improved. It will also have faster and more comprehensive access to intelligence systems.

As well as catching more wrongdoing, senior officers in the new Met regime hope the extra investigators will dramatically slash the time it takes to bring discipline hearings against officers suspected of offences.

The plans involve more rigorous monitoring of work phones and computers for signs of wrongdoing. Rowley has decided against, for now, extending that to random checks on personal devices.

The extra officers investigating wrongdoing risk a flurry of cases generating damaging headlines, but the calculation among the new Met leadership is they want to demonstrate a new determination to clamp down on toxic cultures blighting the force. One insider said: “It will get worse before it gets better.”

Rowley replaces Cressida Dick whose five-year term as commissioner ended with her resignation after she alienated both the Home Office and, crucially, London mayor Sadiq Khan. The London mayor lost faith she could enact reforms quickly or radically enough, but a report last week found he had effectively constructively dismissed Dick.

In truth pledging rapid reforms were a crucial promise anyone hoping to succeed Dick as Met commissioner had to make and act on.

The advert for Met commissioner published by both the Conservative-run Home Office and Labour mayor of London, demanded the “rooting out unacceptable behaviour at all levels, including misogyny, racism and homophobia”.

The advert, reflecting the view in the Home Office and City Hall, called for reform of the “institutional culture”, and the restoration of “public confidence” and “legitimacy” in Britain’s biggest force.

The findings of the inquiries into the Met and its culture, one ordered by the force itself and the other by government, will be delayed because of legal reasons.

Outgoing home secretary Priti Patel, who after consulting Khan appointed Rowley, sent an open letter this weekend demanding radical changes from the new commissioner, who is paid £293,000 a year.

Patel called for “extensive reform” and demanded Rowley “promote better leadership and higher standards at every level throughout the force”.

Patel added: “Londoners need to be assured that improvements are being made immediately and will have an impact. I expect the MPS, under your leadership, clearly to demonstrate that it will learn from the appalling mistakes of the past and move the culture away from the organisational defensiveness that has hindered progress and damaged public trust.”

Rowley, 57, a former head of counter-terrorism, left the Met in 2018 and returns after time in the private sector. He has vowed to be “ruthless in removing those who are corrupting our integrity”.

Contributor

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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