Met Police must learn from ‘appalling mistakes’, says Priti Patel

·4-min read
Incoming Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley; Home Secretary Priti Patel  (ES composite)
Incoming Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley; Home Secretary Priti Patel (ES composite)

The Met Police must learn from the “appalling mistakes of the past”, the Home Secretary has warned the force’s new commissioner.

Sir Mark Rowley - a former counter-terrorism policing chief - is set to take over the role this month, replacing Dame Cressida Dick who resigned earlier this year.

In a three-page letter to Sir Rowley, dated Friday, Priti Patel refers to the need to restore “trust and confidence” and for a “transformation” of the Met.

She also accuses the force of “failing to get the basics right”, and calls for a crackdown on violent crime in London.

The Home Secretary refers to a string of recent controversies and failings - including the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, and the handling of murders carried out by serial killer Stephen Port.

She writes: “Several recent high-profile incidents have affected public trust and confidence across communities particularly in London – raising serious questions about the culture and standards in the MPS.

“These include Sarah Everard’s murder, strip searches of children, the vetting of police officers, basic respect and standards as exposed in the misconduct at Charing Cross police station in Operation Hotton, and the findings of the inquest into the handling of the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor.

“Londoners need to be assured that improvements are being made immediately and will have an impact.

“I expect the MPS, under your leadership, clearly to demonstrate that it will learn from the appalling mistakes of the past and move the culture away from the organisational defensiveness that has hindered progress and damaged public trust.

Sir Mark, whose tenure will begin on September 12, takes over at a difficult time for the Met, and as a new Home Secretary is likely to be appointed once either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak takes over as prime minister.

Ms Patel writes elsewhere in the letter: “It is absolutely vital that trust and confidence is restored and that visible, responsive policing which cuts crime is at the forefront.

“I expect the Metropolitan Police under your leadership to get the basics right and provide the first-class service expected of it.

“Leadership is central to delivering these changes and I support your ambition to ensure a strong top team that can deliver the extensive reform that is required.

“I also expect you, as commissioner, to promote better leadership and higher standards at every level throughout the force.”

Ms Patel, who is likely entering her final few days as Home Secretary, also told the incoming Met chief that the force is “failing to get the basics right”.

“Reducing crime is the central mission of policing and I am pleased to see that good progress is being made in some areas, with both gun crime and burglary continuing to fall across London,” she wrote.

“But there remain areas where further progress is needed. Whilst recorded crime remains below the pre-pandemic levels, it has been rising over the last year and I am very concerned that violent crime levels are now above pre-pandemic levels.”

Ms Patel says the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers remains a “key priority” for the Government, but also raises concerns that “levels of police staff in the MPS have not grown in line with the funding the Government has provided to recruit and support additional officers”.

The ongoing row over the circumstances of Dame Cressida’s resignation is not mentioned in the letter, although Ms Patel does acknowledge it is ultimately up to the mayor of London to hold the commissioner accountable.

Dame Cressida quit as Britain’s most senior police officer in March after criticism from London Mayor Sadiq Khan over her handling of racist, misogynist and homophobic messages shared by a group of officers based at Charing Cross police station and following a series of other scandals which have plagued the Met during her time in post.

A report earlier this week by ex-chief constable of constabulary Sir Tom Winsor found Dame Cressida “felt intimidated” into quitting and was effectively “constructively dismissed” from her role by the mayor.

Mr Khan disputed the findings, saying the report by the former boss of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services was “clearly biased and ignores the facts”.