Home » Met chief needs time to turn things around – but patience is in short supply

Met chief needs time to turn things around – but patience is in short supply

Paradoxically, now the full scale of the dysfunction at the Metropolitan police, exposed by Louise Casey’s report, is known to the public, the force’s commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, could start to get a bit more of what he wants.

Rowley has asked for time to start turning the force around, and as the dust settles it was clear that the two people he needs to fear the most because they can sack him – the home secretary and London mayor – will give him that.

Rowley has been commissioner since September last year and a series of scandals with the Metropolitan police at their heart have not so far imperilled his position.

He knew there were three big disasters coming the Met’s way between the start of the year and summer. It started with the revelations about the serial rapist David Carrick and the Met’s culpability, followed by revelations about Wayne Couzens and how big clues he was a danger of women and a sex offender were missed before Couzens murdered Sarah Everard.

Casey was the last of three hugely painful acts, and while all have damaged the Met’s reputation, they bolster Rowley’s declared mission of reform.

His effective mantra of “before my time”, works; he may be leading the met at the time the mega disasters are made public, but not when the decisions were made that helped spawn them.

But while the opportunities increase for Rowley, the dangers do, too, and patience is in short supply.

Pressing issues are Casey’s call to disband the unit Couzens and Carrick were part of, the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command riven with discrimination and a toxic culture. He wants time to work out how to change it while protecting parliament and diplomatic missions in the capital.

He has commissioned his own internal review of the unit, and expected changes include making it less male, less white, strengthening selection, and a possible name change.

At the top of the Met, since taking office Rowley has reshuffled his top team and brought in new people, boosted and retooled his private office. He has published a turnaround plan, setting himself some benchmarks by which he can be judged.

Institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia ‘pervades’ Met police, says Dame Louise Casey – video

The latest set of figures showing public confidence in the force, released every three months, are due out in the next few weeks. The only change expected is downwards given they cover the time when the public were learning about Carrick.

One senior policing source with experience of transforming a force said: “You need a hard bastard in there … someone the good cops can relate to.”

But the source added: “Mark is very reliant on the home secretary. When it’s politically difficult, they may drop him.”

This source added the Met clearly needed better frontline supervision. The unglamorous street cop, as Casey identified, will be where the real battle for the heart and soul of the Met will be conducted, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

Rowley has promised to reverse the decline of neighbourhood policing. His plan involves tackling corrupt officers but also improving the actual policing service people see.

One officer who works as a supervisor said: “The cops on the ground want to know what call they are going to and what time they finish. They have not got time to read a 360-page document. But it does impact on morale and part of the coping mechanism is not to turn on the news.”

This supervisor sent his team out with this guidance: “Be doubly patient with members of the public. To translate what the commissioner says, we are courteous, professional and stay the course in the face of all the questions about our legitimacy.

“We are still the only people there when people pick up the phone for help, when they are in crisis.

“The commissioner can’t do it on his own, it has to be those of us leading the teams. He is saying the right things, but it’s about the other 50,000 [in the Met].”

Part of the challenge is that a significant part of those the public see and interact with, uniformed cops on the streets and responding to calls, are part of a very young workforce.

The supervisor said: “Some who are very new have no life skills, they came of age during the pandemic. They can be rude to supervisors and the public.”

The commissioner and the Met’s progress on the policing people see would reply on the sergeants and inspectors, said this officer. “The power is with the middle managers. And if they don’t agree [with Rowley], it will be permafrost.”