Majority of Londoners think Met Police is sexist and racist, poll shows

Two police officers were jailed after sharing WhatsApp images of the bodies of Bibaa Henry (left) and Nicole Smallman  (PA Wire)
Two police officers were jailed after sharing WhatsApp images of the bodies of Bibaa Henry (left) and Nicole Smallman (PA Wire)

The scale of the challenge facing the next police commissioner was laid bare on Thursday as a poll revealed nearly two thirds of Londoners believe the Met is institutionally sexist.

A similar number believe the UK’s largest police force is a racist institution.

Just 44 percent of Londoners have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the police, while 49 per cent say that they have little or no trust at all in the force, the YouGov poll for the Mile End Institute, Queen Mary University of London found.

Some 63 percent of those surveyed said the Met is probably or definitely institutionally sexist, while 64 percent said it was probably or definitely racist.

The results show Dame Cressida Dick’s replacement will have to rebuild the trust of Londoners following a series of scandals.

They include the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving officer Wayne Couzens and revelations of bullying, discrimination, racist and sexist behaviour at Charing Cross Police Station.

This week the Met apologised for strip searching a young black girl at her school after she was falsely accused of carrying cannabis.

The “traumatic” search took place while the girl was on her period and without another adult present, a safeguarding report found. It concluded that the strip search should never have happened, was unjustified and racism “was likely to have been an influencing factor”.

Farah Hussain, from the Mile End institute, said: “It’s clear that women and ethnic minority Londoners don’t have much trust in the police force meant to keep them safe. The Met has a lot of work to do to build that trust and convince Londoners it has their best interests at heart.

"The next Commissioner will have a hard job convincing Londoners they can fix the Met’s broken culture and make it a force the community can trust.”

In June, a report from the Metropolitan Police oversight board into public complaints and conduct warned that inappropriate use of social media and messaging services, particularly Whatsapp, was of "considerable concern”.

Last year the force opened 92 investigations into officers for misusing social media, including sharing racist or sexist messages.

This was up from 62 probes launched into Scotland Yard officers’ use of social media in 2020 and a more than six times the number of 2018 when just 14 officers were investigated, data from Freedom of Information requests shows.

Last year two Met PCs were jailed for sharing photos of the scene where sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were murdered, describing them as "dead birds" in WhatsApp messages.

PC Deniz Jaffer and PC Jamie Lewis admitted misconduct in a public office, and Judge Mark Lucraft QC, condemned the pair’s “appalling and inexplicable conduct”.

In 2020, it was revealed a group of Met officers who joked about raping crime victims and exchanged racist, homophobic and misogynistic messages were allowed to keep their jobs.

Ruth Davison, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Refuge said: “This data is sadly unsurprising. We know that institutional misogyny and racism in the police have a huge impact on women’s confidence to report the violent crimes committed against them.

“The Met’s track record on violence against women and girls is abysmal. One only has to reflect on the recent actions of the police towards Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, and Sarah Everard. It’s no wonder trust in the police is at an all-time low.

“But this isn’t about there being a few rotten apples in the Met, the problem is institutional, and this data shows that women recognise this too.

“The incoming Met Commissioner must take urgent action to rid misogyny and other forms of discrimination from its ranks and to rebuild trust with women."

A Met police spokesman said Baroness Louise Casey was leading an "independent and far-reaching review" into the force’s culture and standards of professional and personal behaviour, which will ask "difficult questions to ensure there are lasting improvements to the service we provide for all Londoners".

Fifty new investigators have also started within the Met’s professional standards department.

Commander Rachel Williams, who is leading the Met’s work to rebuild trust across London, said: “We’ve heard loud and clear the dismay and disappointment in us as a police service.

"We have already taken a number of significant steps to start real change across the organisation and will continue to improve as soon as we identify opportunities to."

The YouGov survey for the Mile End Institute, Queen Mary University of London, interviewed 1,114 adults between February 28 and March 3.