By Nicholas Pratley, BA History
On the 5 September 2022, Chris Kaba was fatally shot by a firearms officer. The car he was driving was identified by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) as being linked to a shooting the previous night. At around 10pm his car was rammed, and he was killed by a single bullet through the windscreen. The father-to-be was unarmed.
The officer – known under anonymity as ‘NX121’ – has been charged with murder. He was later released on bail and notified of a possible trial date on September 9th 2024 by Mark Lucraft KC, Recorder of London. In response, 300 Metropolitan Police officers briefly stood down from firearms duties. They were temporarily covered by officers from other police forces, with discussions taking place as to whether the army could be used as a backup for armed response.
Since 1990, the charity Inquest has recorded 1,871 deaths during or following police custody or contact. During this time, there has been one successful charge for manslaughter and none for murder. The ten unsuccessful prosecutions include the high-profile cases of Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, and Azelle Rodney.
An illustrative case, fortunately unfatal, is that of Alfie Meadows. At the 2010 student protests he was struck by an officer carrying a baton and sustained a brain injury. Meadows was prosecuted three times for violent disorder and acquitted in 2013. He later brought proceedings against the police which were halted by the IOPC until 2019. A panel then concluded that he had been hit by an unidentified Metropolitan Police officer. After thirteen years wait while he has finally received settlement the officer cannot be prosecuted.
These events are fueling a crisis in public confidence in the police, highlighted this March by the Casey Review. Commissioned in March 2021, after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, this found the Metropolitan Police to be institutionally racist, homophobic, and misogynistic, with discrimination ‘baked into the system.’ Shocking examples of this included one Muslim officer having bacon stuffed in his boots and a Sikh officer having his beard cut.
The report also detailed sexual harassment and assaults, most often covered up or downplayed, with one-third of women reporting sexism and 12% saying they have been harassed or attacked at work. It also highlights how already low levels of convictions for rapists have been made worse by lost and destroyed evidence, with fridges holding rape kits being broken and in one case being contaminated by a lunchbox.
The Metropolitan police and their latest commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, do not accept that these issues are ‘institutional’ – arguing that as political language it is unsuitable; a view which is shared by the Home Office. The chair of the National Black Police Association said, ‘The commissioner is wrong to once again fail to accept that the Metropolitan is institutionally racist.’ Baroness Louise Casey has also said that it should also accept that it is institutionally corrupt.
Currently, over 1,000 officers are suspended or on restricted service. On top of this, 100 officers have been sacked for gross misconduct, up by 66% from last year. This increase in suspensions and sackings follows the convictions of former officers David Carrick (a serial rapist) and Wayne Couzens (a murderer). Following Carrick’s conviction there have been reviews into 1,600 claims against officers of domestic or sexual violence. While no action has been taken so far, 450 of those are still under review.
“Mark Rowley will have three years to turn the Met around or face it being dismantled.“
Already in special measures by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, it is expected that Mark Rowley will have three years to turn the Met around or face it being broken up. Details of a new London Policing Board have been revealed by Sadiq Khan in response to the Casey report. This will monitor and scrutinise reform within the force, including cultural reforms set out in the Casey report.
The Metropolitan Police was founded in 1829 on the ‘Peelian’ principle of ‘policing by consent’. YouGov has shown that in 2020, an average of 70% of respondents to their surveys thought the police were doing a good job, with 21% thinking they were doing a bad job; this September these figures were 51% and 42% respectively.
A survey conducted in 2022 by the London Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime – shows a 49% confidence rating in the police at a local level, down from 55% in 2021. Trust in the police and their ability to treat everyone fairly fell at a similar rate. In the midst of this crisis Suella Braverman has stated that police ‘mustn’t fear ending up in the dock’. Rather than combating underlying issues she has prioritised a review into political activism in the police, such as taking a knee as a gesture against racism.
Far from their founding principles and mired in scandal, Sir Mark Rowley holds the responsibility to combat the racism, misogyny and corruption exposed in the Metropolitan Police. While the pressure to reform has come largely from the Mayor’s office, whether individual officers or the institution as a whole will be held to account remains to be seen.
Photo Caption: A group of Met officers stand around at a protest [Credit: Tania Monica]