An investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) found that several mistakes were made by police in the case of two sisters who were reported missing in June last year.
Call handlers were also “dismissive” when a friend of one of the sisters raised concern.
The watchdog said that following calls on June 6 a police log was created and a missing persons investigation opened for Ms Smallman, and another for Ms Henry the following day.
The inspector then closed the logs after receiving information about the sisters’ possible whereabouts from a family member, who was “not overly concerned” and would call back in the morning if necessary, the IOPC said.
The information given to the inspector was deemed a “justifiable explanation” for their disappearance.
But the watchdog’s investigation found the information had been “inaccurately” recorded on the police log by the communications supervisor.
“The closure of the police logs did not close the missing persons report at that time created for Nicole, but did prevent the deployment of officers to Nicole’s home,” it said.
“The inspector subsequently did not properly progress missing persons inquiries for Nicola or Bibaa.”
The inspector who closed the logs later told the investigation that this had been one of the most “challenging shifts of his career” with 16 missing persons reports open and the North West Command Unit (NWCU) under capacity by almost 50% due to the ongoing pandemic.
Another member of staff, a call handler based at Met Command and Control at Hendon, gave a “dismissive” response when a friend of one of the sisters called police, the IOPC said.
The way we responded to information that Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were missing was below the standard we should have achieved. We are very sorry for the impact that had on their loved ones.
Read our full response to the IOPC's findings: https://t.co/jiDR1b0c0M
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) October 25, 2021
As a result of the IOPC findings an inspector, from the North West Command, and a member of police staff, a communications supervisor attached to Met Command and Control at Lambeth, must undertake “unsatisfactory performance procedures”.
Both will both attend formal meetings to discuss their performance and appropriate action going forward.
A second member of police staff, a call handler based at Met Command and Control at Hendon, will receive “management action”.
This means they will have a performance discussion with their line manager around what they can learn from this matter and how they can improve.
The IOPC investigation also considered whether the police response was affected by the sisters’ ethnicity, though no evidence was found.
Responding to the report the Met said it will apologise to the sisters’ family and that its response was “below the standard that it should have been”.