LONDON — London’s police division was already coping with a disaster of belief amid allegations of misogyny, racism and bullying when it grew to become embroiled in a political drama. Last month, it opened an investigation into events at Downing Street throughout lockdown that would decide Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political destiny.
The very last thing the division wanted was extra uncertainty. Then its chief, Cressida Dick, stepped down beneath intense strain.
“It comes at the most dreadful time for the organization,” stated Zoë Billingham, a former inspector for an unbiased police watchdog group in Britain, referring to the drive, the Metropolitan Police Service, and to Ms. Dick’s resignation final week. “And it’s in the midst of investigating the prime minister for a potential crime. You almost can’t imagine a conceivably worse situation.”
Ms. Dick’s resignation additional uncovered the fraught political second by which the London police service finds itself whereas it’s also beneath heavy strain to sort out an inner tradition that a report final month stated was rife with sexism and racism.
The drive’s potential to handle these points now appears to be caught in the course of a political battle between two highly effective, formidable figures in opposing events.
On one facet is Priti Patel, the Conservative house secretary, who oversees policing nationally and who had lengthy stood behind Ms. Dick, supporting her plan for overhauls. On the opposite is Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London and a member of the opposition Labour Party, who pressured Ms. Dick to step down, making it clear he now not had confidence in her management.
The calls for Ms. Dick’s resignation started early final yr after the kidnapping, rape and homicide of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old London girl, by a police officer. The killing fueled a nationwide dialog about issues with policing, and late final yr, the federal government introduced an inquiry into the drive.
Ms. Billingham stated a report two weeks in the past from the official police watchdog that laid naked deeply troubling messages between officers in a single central London police station was the ultimate tipping level in a lengthy sequence of points that had eroded public belief within the drive.
The report detailed racism and xenophobia, with messages exchanged between officers mocking the Black Lives Matter motion and non-Christian religions, and containing deeply misogynistic feedback about rape, homophobic feedback and insults about folks with disabilities. Nine of the folks concerned are nonetheless serving as law enforcement officials, and two had been promoted within the years for the reason that messages have been despatched.
“You couldn’t imagine this being a conversation being held in any walk of life, let alone policing,” Ms. Billingham stated. “The homophobia, the racism and misogyny. What I found really disturbing was the glorification of domestic abuse — it was just unforgivable.”
Mr. Khan had pressured Ms. Dick to step down quickly after the revelations.
Now the method begins to nominate Ms. Dick’s substitute. The commissioner is technically appointed by the queen, however she’s going to settle for a suggestion from Ms. Patel, the house secretary.
But because the commissioner’s publish is each a metropolis position and a nationwide one — the Metropolitan Police Service oversees counterterrorism policing and has different nationwide duties — Ms. Patel is legally required to bear in mind the views of the mayor of London.
A spokesman for the Home Office stated in a assertion, “The Home Secretary is committed to selecting the right leader for the largest police force in the country, who will focus on reducing violence in the city, tackling the abuse of women and girls, ridding our streets of drugs, knives and weapons, saving lives and protecting the public from those who wish to do them harm.”
Ms. Patel thanked Ms. Dick for her service, highlighting the truth that she was the primary girls to steer the drive however acknowledging that “policing culture, conduct, attitudes and behaviors have rightly all come under scrutiny.” The new chief “must tackle these institutional issues that have brought great shame on elements of policing,” she added.
But Ms. Patel’s priorities for the brand new commissioner could battle with these of Mr. Khan, the London mayor, who has taken a more durable stance, pointing to “deep cultural issues” inside the metropolis’s police drive.
The opposition Labour Party has been extremely crucial of Ms. Patel. Yvette Cooper, the opposition lawmaker accountable for policing, stated in an interview with the BBC that the house secretary had been “silent” on policing for the final yr, and called on the government to do more to make way for reforms.
Mr. Khan, in an editorial final weekend in The Observer, stated that he was “deeply concerned by how public trust and confidence in London’s police service has been shattered so badly” by the current watchdog report and “a succession of serious incidents.”
He stated he wouldn’t assist any candidate who didn’t “clearly demonstrate that they understand the scale of the cultural problems within the Met and the urgency with which they must be addressed.”
Policing consultants agree that it is going to be crucial for the brand new chief to determine and urgently deal with the problematic tradition.
Ms. Billingham stated that almost all officers have been doing good jobs however that it was essential for the incoming chief to simply accept the dimensions of the issue and to create a tradition by which misogyny, racism, homophobia and bullying weren’t tolerated.
Janet Hills, who labored as a Metropolitan Police detective sergeant for three a long time and led London’s federation of Black officers earlier than turning into president of the National Black Police Association, stated that a troubling tradition was in a position to thrive beneath Ms. Dick as a result of there was a disconnect between these in energy and decrease rating officers.
“There is no understanding of what is happening on the ground floor — those people behaving that way have been allowed to do it unchallenged,” Ms. Hills stated. “And that for me is where it had fallen down for this current commissioner.”
Crucially, Ms. Hills stated, Ms. Dick handled the racism inside the drive as a problem of the previous and failed to handle the clear issues that had come to gentle. Ms. Hills pointed to the 1999 Macpherson Report, a groundbreaking inquiry after the homicide of an 18-year-old Black man named Stephen Lawrence in 1993, that labeled the dealing with of the demise as institutionally racist. She stated that Ms. Dick had acted as if the drive had moved on from these occasions.
“But we have not,” Ms. Hills stated, “because we’ve never addressed it.”