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Watchdog raises ‘serious concerns’ over Met Police performance

The Independent logo The Independent 21/09/2022 Flora Thompson

A watchdog has raised “serious concerns” about the performance of the Metropolitan Police after it found the force was “failing” in several areas of its work.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said Scotland Yard must make urgent improvements as it published its findings, just days after Sir Mark Rowley took over as Commissioner.

The force said it was “committed” to tackling the problems highlighted in the report, with new Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens saying their pledge to London was “more trust, less crime, high standards”.

The watchdog graded Britain’s biggest police force as inadequate in the way it responds to the public, while finding it required improvement in investigating crime, protecting vulnerable people, managing offenders, developing a positive workplace and making a good use of resources.

Our latest report describes many successes and some examples of innovation. However, it also raises serious concerns about how the force responds to the public and the level of understanding the force has about its demand and its workforce

Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr

The force was judged as adequate in two areas of its police work but only found to be good in one other.

The findings come three months after the Met was put into special measures by the watchdog amid “persistent concerns” about its performance, including incidents which “raised issues around confidence and trust”.

Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said his concerns about the force had been growing for a “considerable time” and the watchdog’s latest report “raises serious concerns about how the force responds to the public and the level of understanding the force has about its demand and its workforce”.

Meanwhile Staffordshire Police – which was placed in special measures alongside the Met – has also been told to “urgently improve” its performance by the watchdog after “serious concerns” were raised over how it investigates crime, responds to the public and monitors suspects and offenders.

Mr Parr said: “The Met must get better at how it responds to the public – currently, its call handling teams are unable to answer calls quickly enough. In addition, it isn’t correctly documenting the decisions of victims to withdraw from an investigation or to accept an out-of-court disposal.

“Recording victims’ wishes is vital to support the criminal justice process and to understand what is stopping victims from being able to complete the investigation process. The Met must improve in this area.”

The force currently answers 63.9% of 999 calls within 10 seconds, against a national target of 90%. It also sees 36.6% of calls to the non-emergency number 101 abandoned, compared with a goal of less than 10%.

We will be using data and insight to improve the Met’s performance on crime fighting and prevention

Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens

The force must also better support its officers and staff, Mr Parr said, adding: “Investigations are not always reviewed or overseen properly. There’s an unfair allocation of work, which puts undue pressure on some staff. The force needs to properly understand demand to ensure it is allocating its staff and resources effectively.”

The HMICFRS report said: “We found that the high proportion of inexperienced staff and a lack of experienced tutors for detectives meant that supervisors were often teaching staff how to investigate crime rather than supervising them.”

But Mr Parr stressed the Met “operates under scrutiny other forces do not face”, praising how it led one of the biggest police operations in the UK’s history in the wake of the Queen’s death while also contending with an incident in which two of its officers were stabbed.

The findings also describe “many successes and some examples of innovation”, he said, adding the Met is “good at preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, and has developed innovative techniques to improve how it collects evidence and identifies offenders, such as its new forensic technique for detecting the presence of blood on dark clothing and its new rapid testing kit for drink spiking”.

The force will continue to face so-called enhanced monitoring by HMICFRS as part of the engage process, known as being put into special measures, Mr Parr said.

The Met said the Commissioner had made it “very clear” the force needs to improve and has a plan to do so, while Dame Lynne said she and Sir Mark were both “determined to renew policing by consent, working with communities to deliver the kind of police service Londoners need and deserve”.

She added: “We will be using data and insight to improve the Met’s performance on crime fighting and prevention.

“We want to remove as many hurdles as possible to make it easier for hardworking officers to fight crime, deliver justice and support victims.”

Sir Mark Rowley took over as head of the Metropolitan Police last week (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire) © Provided by The Independent Sir Mark Rowley took over as head of the Metropolitan Police last week (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

Sir Mark started as Commissioner last week during what is arguably one of the most turbulent times for the Met.

He took on the role after Dame Cressida Dick dramatically quit earlier this year and while the force has been plagued by a series of scandals and missteps in recent years.

A public attitude survey from the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime showed trust levels fell from an estimated 83% in the year to March 31 2020 to an estimated 73% in the year ending March 31 2022.

In a sternly worded letter before his tenure began, then-home secretary Priti Patel demanded Sir Mark address the “appalling mistakes of the past”, listing the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, strip searches of children, and the abject failures investigating the deaths of the victims of serial killer Stephen Port among the key issues that had damaged public confidence.

In response to the watchdog report, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The findings in this report are deeply concerning. The people of London expect better and the Met must work to implement the necessary improvements as a matter of urgency.”

“Earlier this month the Home Secretary met with Sir Mark Rowley and was reassured by his immediate plans to address these issues and restore the public’s trust in policing.

“The Met, as the country’s largest force, shoulders immense responsibility and recently played a critical role during the national period of mourning for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is essential that the professionalism shown over the past few weeks is replicated in all they do to keep the public safe.

“Ministers will be monitoring closely the progress towards improvement and the rebuilding of trust and confidence. We expect the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to work with the Met leadership to deliver this transformation.”

There has also been outrage over racist, sexist and homophobic messages shared by a group of officers based at Charing Cross police station between 2016 and 2018, questions raised over the force’s approach to tackling corruption and its use of stop and search as well as ongoing investigations into deaths following police contact, including that of Chris Kaba, who was fatally shot by an officer.

On Wednesday a judge branded comments made by a serving Met officer and a former constable “sickening” and “abhorrent” as they were convicted of sending grossly offensive messages in a WhatsApp group with Ms Everard’s killer.

In the wake of her murder, two separate reviews into the Met are taking place and HMICFRS is also reviewing vetting procedures used by all forces in England and Wales.

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