The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has announced an independent review of the force’s internal culture and professional standards amidst mounting scrutiny of the efficacy of their vetting and monitoring processes. Speaking to journalists on Monday, the Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick recognised the ‘massive job’ entailed by the review in rebuilding public trust in the police’s powers of arrest.
This announcement arrives in the wake of Wayne Couzens’ conviction in the Central Criminal Court, where Lord Justice Fulford noted that the defendant ‘used his position as a police officer to coerce [Everard] into the car he had hired for his purpose’. Couzens was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. He had previously been accused of indecent exposure in Kent in 2015 and in London just days prior to Ms Everard’s murder.
Meanwhile a retired Met detective accused Dick of ignoring her warnings about a ‘vulgar and sexist’ WhatsApp group similar to that used by Couzens. Ex-Detective Superintendent Paige Kimberley claimed she wrote to Dame Cressida shortly after the murder of Miss Everard urging a review of ‘how inappropriate behaviour is addressed amongst contract workers’. The Mail on Sunday reported that an internal investigation in 2019 took no action against the male officers ‘saying the messages were “distasteful” but did not amount to criminality or misconduct’. Kimberley is set to be compensated after a tribunal last month ruled a job offer was withdrawn from her a day after she told her civilian line manager about sexist messages and images on the WhatsApp group.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has stated that several Met officers are currently under investigation for gross misconduct following allegations that they shared potentially inappropriate or discriminatory WhatsApp messages related to the Everard investigation. This investigation also coincides with ongoing proceedings against PC David Carrick, a Met officer accused of raping a woman he met on Tinder.
The Met’s commissioner, Cressida Dick’s calls for an independent review counterpoint recent criticism of her oversight of the Metropolitan Police, including a call to resign from ex-Met chief Lord John Stevens. Writing to the Home Secretary, Labour MP and Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights Harriet Harman lambasted failures to respond to the ‘many warning signs’ presented by Couzens to other serving officees prior to his offence. In another letter to the embattled police chief, Harman further stated that women’s confidence in the police ‘will have been shattered’. ‘Women need to be confident that the police are there to make them safe, not to put them at risk. Women need to be able to trust the police, not to fear them… I think it is not possible for you to lead these necessary actions in the Metropolitan Police,’ Harman said.
Despite standing behind Dick amidst criticism of her leadership, both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister recognised failings in the Metropolitan Police. Speaking at the Home Office, Priti Patel noted that there were ‘serious questions that need to be answered’ regarding the ‘requirements and checks’ of Met officers. Whilst reiterating the need to investigate vetting failures, and to address the problems caused by police insensitivity towards cases involving violence towards women, Boris Johnson has ruled out a public inquiry into Everard’s murder.