More than 150 Met officers suspended over sexual assault or racism

Mark Rowley named as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

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More than 150 police officers from the largest force in the UK are prohibited from holding positions that require them to interact with the public amid ongoing investigations into claims of sexual misconduct or racism, it has been revealed. The number, which the Metropolitan Police supplied to The Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, is double the previous estimate. The Met Police is under unprecedented pressure to tackle a culture of racism and misogyny after a series of scandals harmed trust in police officers.

Scotland Yard says it has suspended or restricted the activities of a growing number of Met police officers after “concerted efforts” to motivate staff to recognise and report misbehaviour.

A spokesperson for the Met said: “Following concerted efforts to encourage employees to recognise and report wrongdoing, mandatory training that makes it a duty to report misconduct, boosting officer numbers in the directorate of professional standards, and listening to the public’s views about their expectations of suspension, we’ve seen restrictions and suspensions of officers almost double.

“Our work continues at pace to identify those who let down the public and police, and deal with them as swiftly as possible.”

At the end of November, the number of officers on restricted duties due to allegations of sexual misconduct stood at 118, while the number for allegations of racism was 43, the Met revealed at the time.

The new Met commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, raised concerns about hiring some officers who were working under “very restrictive” conditions because “frankly we don’t trust them to talk to members of the public”.

He told BBC Radio 4 at the time: “It’s completely mad that I have to employ people like that as police officers that you can’t trust to have contact with the public.”

Trust in the Met Police took a hit in March 2021 when a Met police officer killed a 33-year-old woman. Wayne Couzens handcuffed Sarah Everard, and placed her in his car before driving her near Dover where he raped and strangled her, before burning her body and disposing of her remains in a nearby pond.

Mr Couzens initially claimed he did not recognise Ms Everard after being shown pictures of her. He was later re-arrested on suspicion of murder and charged with Ms Everard’s kidnapping and murder on March 12. He eventually pleaded guilty to murder at a hearing in July.

Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the time, said she felt “sickened, angered and devastated” by Mr Couzens’s crimes, adding: “They are dreadful and everyone in policing feels betrayed. Sarah was a fantastic, talented young woman with her whole life ahead of her and that has been snatched away.”

The case precipitated her demise, as she was criticised on multiple occasions for failing to overhaul her police force. Shortly after the murder, the Met police arrested four attendees at vigils for Sarah Everard alleging violation of Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings. The crackdown was met with fierce criticism from Keir Starmer, Sadiq Khan and campaigners who hit out at the police’s mishandling. 

Ms Dick was also condemned for hampering efforts to gain access to important information, causing delays in the report’s release into the murder of Daniel Morgan.

A report released by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) accused officers at Charing Cross Police Station of misogyny, racism, discrimination, bullying and sexual assault and suggested these were not isolated cases within the police force.

In February 2022, she was forced to resign after losing the confidence of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, over her response to racism and misogyny in the force. 

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Reacting to the suspension of police officers, a spokesperson of Reclaim These Streets (RTS), a collective that was among groups that came together to organise a vigil after Sarah Everard’s murder, told The Guardian: “It’s extraordinary that we’re expected to pay to keep misogynists and racists on the Met police payroll.

“It’s right that they’re suspended: women deserve to know that the person we ask for help in an emergency isn’t a predator themselves. But we have to ask how they passed vetting to be hired in the first place, how long their prejudice was allowed to fester in the Met’s ranks, and how many others like them remain in post.”

The new Met Police chief, Sir Mark Rowley, has pledged to crack down on hundreds of officers who he says are guilty of crimes and unethical conduct. 

Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Mark said he was “already suspending and sacking more officers” accused of racism or misogyny, but needed the Home Office to change the law to give Scotland Yard the power to dismiss them.

He said: “I’ve got hundreds of people who shouldn’t be with me. The people who are getting off [with dismissal] are largely white men who are behaving badly towards to black and female colleagues.”

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