A culture of misogyny and racism has existed in the Met police for too long – Cressida Dick must go
The culture of the Metropolitan police and what that means for the way they do the job has been the subject of public concern for many decades.
There are too many examples of institutional racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
Regularly, a carefully media trained senior police appears on our television screens to insist that everything is different now. But in reality, very little changes.
A recent investigation by the IPOC (Independent Office of Police Conduct) illustrates the ugly truth. Much of the investigation concerns messages passed between police officers on social media. The messages include “Have you ever slapped missus? It makes them love you even more”, “I would happily rape you”, “Getting a woman in bed is like spreading butter. It can be done with a credit card, but it’s quicker and easier just to use a knife.” The messages were not just grossly sexist. They were often racist. They spoke about “Somalian rats”, “Muslim fanatics”. There were references to Auschwitz and the word gay was used as an insult.
These findings are bad enough. But the scale of the bigotry will never be known because the police officers concerned deliberately deleted material relevant to the investigation.
Bigotry like this does not just lead to unprofessional behaviour. It can potentially cost lives
Police bigotry is not confined to Charing Cross police station. In my own constituency of Hackney, the Metropolitan Police recently had to apologise and pay compensation to a completely innocent woman Dr Konstancja Duff who they arrested and strip searched. All she was doing was trying to help a 15-year-old child with a “know your rights” card.
Dr Duff describes what happened next, “I was taken to Stoke Newington police station, pinned to the floor of a cell by three female officers, had my hands cuffed behind my back, had my legs tied together and they cut off my clothes with scissors. They ripped out my earrings, grabbed my breasts roughly while turning me over and even touched my legs apparently looking for genital piercings. During the search I could hear them talking to other officers. Their derogatory comments included “Treat her like a terrorist, I don’t care” and “What’s that smell? Oh, it’s her knickers" were caught on CCTV.
It took Dr Duff nine years to get justice. But how many other women are subjected to Metropolitan police sexism who don't pursue a civil claim? And bigotry like this does not just lead to unprofessional behaviour. It can potentially cost lives. As was the case with Sarah Everard.
How can a police force saturated in sexism identify and stop the next PC Couzens, the officer who raped and murdered Sarah?
The IPOC said about Charing Cross police station, "A culture developed that made it difficult to challenge oppressive comments and behaviour and an environment that was hostile and felt unsafe for those who were the direct or indirect targets of discrimination".
This has been the culture of the Metropolitan police for too long. Change is long overdue. Cressida Dick has led the Met since 2017. She is not the person to spearhead reform.
Cressida Dick must go.
Diane Abbott is the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
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