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The Wrong Man for the Job? Concerns Swirl Around New Met Police Commissioner

Sascha Lavin explores whether the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner has what it takes to root out systemic racism, corruption and misogyny in Britain’s biggest force

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley. Photo: Tayfun Salci/Zuma

The Wrong Man for the Job?Concerns Swirl Around New Met Police Commissioner

Sascha Lavin explores whether the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner has what it takes to root out systemic racism, corruption and misogyny in Britain’s biggest force

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The man charged with cleaning up the Metropolitan Police following a series of scandals around racism, misogyny and discrimination has never shown “a particular appetite for the cultural side of policing”, a senior police source has told Byline Times.

Sir Mark Rowley replaced Cressida Dick as Met Police Commissioner in September, inheriting a force in special measures after a police watchdog uncovered a litany of “systemic” failings, including errors in stop and search and delays in answering 999 calls. 

A series of recent crises and the mishandling of them – from Sarah Everard’s murder by a serving Met Police officer, the heavy-handed approach to a vigil honouring her, and the taking and sharing of photographs by officers of the dead bodies of sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman – has resulted in public confidence in the Met plummeting to record lows. 

Last year, Britain’s biggest police force was also accused of “a form of institutional corruption” by an independent panel inquiry into the Met’s botched investigation into the 1987 murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan.

A well-placed source has raised concerns that while Sir Mark is competent in the technical skills of policing, he lacks the people skills to understand and tackle the plethora of problems facing the Met.

“Sir Mark lacks the deep-rooted beliefs and passion for cultural change that is required of a Met chief during this turbulent time,” they told Byline Times.

He does not have “the sort of recognition of the really difficult, grimy job to be done about shifting attitudes and behaviours,” they continued. “With women or race matters, he’ll say the right things, but there’s no passion in that. There won’t be an evangelical side to him.”

The Met Police did not comment but pointed to an open letter by Sir Mark, in which he wrote that he “will be ruthless at rooting out from this organisation the corrupting officers including racists and misogynists” and claimed that he was “determined to get the Met culture right”.

But, while carrying out a round of media interviews last week where he echoed the sentiments in his letter, he refused to say whether his force was institutionally racist, saying he was not interested in “labels”. 

Race has been a longstanding problem for the Met, with the 1999 Macpherson Inquiry into the racially-motivated death of Stephen Lawrence concluding that “institutional racism” – the collective failure to provide a fair and professional service to all, regardless of race – existed in the Met.

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Last year, a report by Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee found that the Met, along with other forces in England and Wales, had failed to stamp out “deep-rooted and persistent racial disparities”. 

Habib Kadiri, policy and research manager at police monitoring group Stopwatch, told Byline Times that Sir Mark will be “doomed to fail” if he does not call out institutional racism in the force.

“The long-standing resistance to even mild reforms – such as recording the ethnicity of drivers during car stops – that would improve standards, indicates the gravity of the issue,” Kadiri said. “Rowley faces a tsunami of problems with the culture, transparency, and accountability of the Met that may overwhelm him if he does not bring himself to understand the structural causes behind them.”

Despite a series of racist incidents on her watch – from the stop and search of innocent athlete Bianca Williams to “grossly offensive” WhatsApp messages shared between Met police officers – Cressida Dick denied that the Met was institutionally racist, saying it was an unhelpful term. 

Dick, like previous Met chiefs, shied away from publicly admitting the Met’s systemic racism, worrying that it would alienate Met staff. But, according to Byline Times‘ source, the new Met Commissioner’s refusal to acknowledge the force’s institutional racism is rooted in something else – his desire to please Home Secretary Suella Braverman.  

Since her appointment last month, Braverman has adopted a hardline stance, calling on police chiefs to prioritise “common-sense policing” rather than “woke” issues, and to stop focusing on “symbolic gestures” – a sentiment echoed by Sir Mark when he suggested he would ban officers from ‘taking the knee’. 

‘Words Not Actions’

In his recent open letter, the new Met chief wrote that “already in my first two weeks I have sought out those who are passionate about helping the Met be better”, but one group has said this has not been the case. 

The National Black Police Association offered to meet him to highlight areas of concern and collaborate on how to change the systemic racism within the force, but was snubbed. 

“It was a shock to have the Commissioner refuse this meeting and showed our members, communities and partners that he was not genuine in his desire to bring about the cultural overall that has been demanded and that he was recruited to deliver,” the group’s head, Andy George, told Byline Times.

The advert for Sir Mark’s job demanded the “rooting out of unacceptable behaviour at all levels, including misogyny, racism and homophobia” and called for reform of the “institutional culture” in the Met Police. But, according to George, Sir Mark has failed to match up to what should be a watershed moment for the force. 

“The new leader needed to show he understood the concerns being raised and that he would listen, learn and change the service rather than defend things blindly,” George said. “He needed to be more outward-looking putting the diverse citizens and visitors of London first rather than defending the reputation of the Met above identifying and dealing with those who tarnish its name with racism and discrimination.”

George, who regularly met with Dick, had wished to raise issues including the recent fatal shooting of Chris Kaba, an unarmed black man, by a Met Police officer in September. “The Commissioner has told us all how he feels through his actions despite his well-articulated words,” George added. 

“The current crisis in confidence around racism, misogyny and discrimination needs bold new thinking and a fundamental review of policing practices and culture within the service.”

These concerns beg the question: why was Sir Mark Rowley handed the top job at the Met, given his uneasiness with culture-change is ill-suited to this critical time in British policing? 

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