What does the Metropolitan Police being put under ‘Special Measures’ mean and why has it happened?

·5-min read
The New Scotland Yard sign outside the Metropolitan Police headquarters in London. The force has been placed on special measures (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
The New Scotland Yard sign outside the Metropolitan Police headquarters in London. The force has been placed on special measures (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

The Metropolitan Police is facing intense monitoring from the police watchdog after a catalogue of failures in recent years.

Since these failings, the force has been put in what the Home Secretary Priti Patel calls ‘special measures’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

In a statement, the Inspectorate said: “We can confirm that we are now monitoring the Met Police Service through our engagement process which provides additional scrutiny and support to help it make improvements.”

Asked if this meant special measures, a spokesman said: “Yes.”

A Met spokesman said the force recognised “the cumulative impact of events and problems” it was dealing with.

The London Constabulary has been hit by a number of scandals in recent years, including the murder of Sarah Everard, and racist, homophobic and sexist messages sent by officers at Charing Cross station.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What does ‘Special Measures’ mean?

Special Measures is a status applied by regulators of public services in the UK, to providers who fall short of acceptable standards, and it is commonly applied to failing schools and hospitals.

This is the first time the measures have been applied to the Met, and the inspectorate has said that the force has been placed in its “engage” process which “provides additional scrutiny and support to help it make improvements”.

The HMICFRS watchdog placed Greater Manchester Police on the engage process in 2020, after it failed to report 80,000 crimes.

The new measures mean that the Met will be placed under increased scrutiny.

In a statement, the Inspectorate said: “We can confirm that we are now monitoring the Met Police Service through our engagement process which provides additional scrutiny and support to help it make improvements.”

Asked if this meant special measures, a spokesman said: “Yes.”

A Met spokesman said the force recognised “the cumulative impact of events and problems” it was dealing with.

They said: “We understand the impact this has had on communities and we share their disappointment.

“We are determined to be a police service Londoners can be proud of. We are talking to the Inspectorate about next steps.”

Why has it happened?

There are a number of scandals that have hit the Metropolitan Police in recent years, causing the Special Measures to be put in place.

In February, the Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was forced to quit, after she admitted Sadiq Khan no longer had “sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue”.

Among the scandals to have rocked the Met in recent years are the racist texts exchanged by members of Charing Cross police station and the jailing of two officers who admitted sharing photographs of two sisters, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, after they were found murdered in a Wembley Park.

It also drew fire for its policing of a vigil following Ms Everard’s murder after women were handcuffed on the ground and led away by officers.

A list of recent scandals includes:

  • The death of Sarah Everard

  • The strip search of Child Q

  • The handling of the Stephen Port murders

  • Charing Cross police station scandal

  • The handling of the murders of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry

What has been the reaction?

Home Secretary Priti Patel agrees with the move, saying: “The public put their trust in the police and rightly expect the country’s largest force to protect them effectively and carry out their duties to the highest professional standards. As home secretary, I have overseen the largest funding boost for policing in a decade, and the Government has committed to an extra 20,000 police officers, with 2,599 already recruited by the Metropolitan Police.

“I expect the police to get the basics right. It is clear the Metropolitan Police Service is falling short of these expectations which is why I support the action that HMICFRS has taken today to highlight their failings – and I expect the Met and the London mayor to take immediate action to begin addressing them.

“The process to recruit a new commissioner is well under way and I have made clear that the successful candidate must demonstrate sustained improvements in the Metropolitan Police Service in order to regain public trust both in London and across the country.

“The new commissioner will need to deliver on the public’s priorities for the police – making our streets safer, bearing down on crime and bringing more criminals to justice, while continuing to recruit thousands of new officers to protect local communities.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he agrees with the move, adding that he welcomes: “the additional scrutiny and support that these measures will now bring.”

He said: “A series of appalling scandals have not only exposed deep cultural problems but have damaged the confidence of Londoners in the capital’s police service.

“The decision by the HMIC to now move the Met into special measures has laid bare the substantial performance failings by the force.

“As I have been saying for some time, Londoners deserve better. That’s why we now need to see nothing less than a new contract forged between the police and the public in London. This means root and branch reforms and systemic change to the Met’s performance and culture.

“This will be a crucial first step for the next Commissioner to start rebuilding trust and credibility with our communities. I will work with HMIC and will hold the Met to account in delivering the police reforms and step change in policing performance and culture that all our communities deserve.”

The family of Child Q, the Hackney teenager who was strip-searched by Metropolitan Police officers while she was menstruating welcomed the decision.

They said: ““The Metropolitan Police has shown time and again that it cannot do its job properly and its officers’ actions have had life-changing, devastating consequences for innocent people across London, including Child Q. It is no wonder that there is little to no faith left in the Metropolitan Police.

“We hope the additional scrutiny of special measures will result in permanent change in the force’s culture and practices. The Met must now respond meaningfully to the failings which have been identified by HMICFRS as well as those identified by the numerous recent reports into its wrongdoing. Londoners deserve so much better.”

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