Report Finds London Police Force Is Sexist and Racist

London’s police force is institutionally sexist, misogynistic, racist and homophobic, according to an independent report released on Tuesday, the strongest condemnation yet of a department plagued by systemic problems and a severe erosion of public trust.

While the force has been under intense scrutiny for months, the report offers a damning new assessment of its inner workings and the “boy’s club” culture that it says pervades it. It called for a series of changes in the force.

The report, compiled by Louise Casey, an appointed member of the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British Parliament, was ordered up after the murder in 2021 of Sarah Everard by a police officer, a case that rattled Britain and forced a spotlight onto bad behavior within the London police. Most recently, a London police officer, David Carrick, was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against 12 women over a 17-year period that included rape and numerous charges of sexual assault.

The organization’s response to these and other scandals included “playing them down, denial, obfuscation and digging in to defend officers without seeming to understand their wider significance,” the report found.

The report found that officers were targeted by colleagues because of their religion, sexual orientation or gender. One account described a Sikh officer having his beard cut off because a colleague thought it was funny. Officers reported dehumanizing initiation rituals: Some officers said they had been urinated on, and women described being forced to eat cake until they vomited.

In one account, an officer described witnessing other officers “surfing crime reports looking for female victims who live alone, contacting them when off-duty and offering ‘support.’”

Mark Rowley, the commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, said in a statement on Tuesday morning that the report must be a “catalyst for police reform” and offered an apology from the force.

“The appalling examples in this report of discrimination, the letting down of communities and victims, and the strain faced by the front line, are unacceptable,” he said. “We have let people down, and I repeat the apology I gave in my first weeks to Londoners and our own people in the Met: I am sorry.”

While the abduction, rape and murder of Ms. Everard, a 33-year-old London woman, was the impetus for the review, a number of other prominent cases, including that of Mr. Carrick, have highlighted broader concerns about misogyny within the police department.

In February 2022, Cressida Dick, then the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, commissioned Baroness Casey to conduct an independent review into the standards of behavior and the internal culture of the force.

“This report is rigorous, stark and unsparing,” Baroness Casey wrote in the foreword to the report. “Its findings are tough and for many will be difficult to take. But it should leave no one in any doubt about the scale of the challenge.”

She also acknowledged that new leadership had arrived while the review was underway, and said that they now had “a daunting task.”

“Thankfully, they accept the scale of that challenge, and they deserve the chance to succeed,” she said, adding that she hoped the report would “serve as both a diagnosis of what needs to change, and a blueprint for how to begin.”

Ms. Dick eventually resigned amid widespread criticism of her handling of the problems within the institution. In an interim report released in October 2022, Baroness Casey outlined a number of longstanding problems in the force, including delays in resolving misconduct cases and accusations of sexual misconduct and other discriminatory behaviors that have long gone unaddressed. That early report also found racial disparity in how the cases were handled.

But Tuesday’s full report went further, putting in stark relief the reality of the issues within the force, saying that instances of racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia were found “in plain sight.”

“This is a damning, excoriating shocking report,” said Zoe Billingham, a former inspector for the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, an independent police watchdog group in Britain. “I think it’s seismic in its magnitude in terms of the reverberations it will send across the policing in the capital, but also in terms of the cultural challenges in policing across the U.K. as well.”

The report noted that, “discrimination is tolerated, not dealt with and has become baked into the system” and is felt “most acutely by those who cannot hide their differences from the white male norm, particularly people of color and women.”

In one example recorded in the report, an officer told how, “Women are viewed as inferior and not truly belonging, being judged on looks and physical assets only. Only women who are either attractive or willing to have sex with colleagues are accepted.”

In another account, an officer described how bad behavior, particularly misogyny directed at women in the force and in the community, had been “allowed to thrive and flourish.” The officer said it was “a breeding ground, because of the power and control that comes with being a police officer.”

Bullying and humiliation were dismissed as mere “banter,” the report found, noting: “We heard of bags of urine being thrown at cars, male officers flicking each other’s genitals, dildos being put in coffee mugs, lockers being emptied or covered in evidence tape, and an animal put in an officer’s locker.” Officers regularly close ranks around others accused of impropriety, discrimination or abuse, the report said.

The report also explored how strains on resources had led to stripped-back neighborhood policing and a detrimental lack of engagement with the community as a result, noting: “The Met has become disconnected from Londoners. Their consent can no longer be assumed.”

Last year, a report from England’s official police watchdog put forth a similar assessment of the troubled force, advising that the force address “disgraceful” behavior after that investigation found widespread bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.

The government responded shortly after the report’s publication on Tuesday, with Suella Braverman, the home secretary whose office is responsible for policing nationally, saying that Mr. Rowley and the leadership of the London police would be held to account to “deliver a wholesale change in the force’s culture.”

But she added that she was “confident that under Sir Mark’s leadership, progress is being made to reform standards and deliver common sense policing for all Londoners.”

Ms. Billingham, the former inspector for the watchdog group, said it was important to remember that the British policing model is based on policing by consent from the public — officers carry guns only in exceptional instances, unlike the American policing model.

She said she had faith in Mr. Rowley’s vow to step up neighborhood policing and to reassure communities as the force addresses these institutional issues.

“This is either the beginning of the end of the Met or it is the catalyst for change — the beginning of the new beginning,” Ms. Billingham said. “And it has to be the latter, doesn’t it, because the former is unthinkable.”

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