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The Met’s acting chief has told MPs that problems in the beleaguered force are “not a few bad apples”.
Sir Stephen House, appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, insisted the force was taking action to root out unacceptable behaviour “as fast as possible”.
Scotland Yard has faced a slew of damaging scandals, including the murder of Sarah Everard by serving officer Wayne Couzens, the revelation of racist, sexist and homophobic messages exchanged by a team at Charing Cross police station, and the strip-search of a Hackney teenager at school while she was menstruating.
The force’s former commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, was forced to resign from the top role after losing the confidence of mayor Sadiq Khan.
Sir Stephen, who is taking charge of the force on a temporary basis, said: “There is a significant campaign within the organisation to deal with this completely unacceptable behaviour, to root it out and to exit those people who are exhibiting that behaviour from the organisation as fast as possible and in the right way.”
Asked by MPs if it was just a “few bad people,” he replied: “People have talked about a few bad apples, quite clearly that’s not the situation at all, it’s not a few bad apples.
“You can’t simply say that Wayne Couzens and a couple of other people have done something wrong - that’s been the spearhead of the problem, I would suggest, but there is a wider issue within the organisation which we acknowledge and we are dealing with.”
A strategic review of policing last month suggested that officers should have to hold licences that would be renewed every five years, which Sir Stephen suggested he would "not be opposed" to.
“Every now and again, checking that somebody is still up to snuff, doing things in the way they should do, is aware of recent legal developments because the law changes all the time, is not a bad thing to do," he said.
“We would certainly expect doctors to know what the recent developments are, what medication etcetera, what treatments, we should expect the same of police officers, and there is constant change.”
Committee chair Dame Diana Johnson suggested the public see Met officers like Gene Hunt from Life On Mars, “rather than a modern professional police officer”.
Forces across England and Wales are trying to recruit 20,000 officers by next year to replace jobs cut during austerity measures.
Sir Stephen said he is now “less confident” that the Met will meet its recruitment targets for more officers on the beat, with the force needing to attract 40,000 applicants in the next year to replace officers who leave as well as attracting 1,800 new starters.
He said: “We need to recruit just over 4,000 officers in the next 12 months.
“That means we need around about 40,000 applications in the next 12 months because we take roughly one in 10 of the people who apply to us.”
The force earlier this month committed to publicly declaring itself an anti-racist organisation after a damning report by the police watchdog, the IOPC, into officers’ racist and sexist texts at Charing Cross.
Senior officers also said they would seek talks with the Home Office and City Hall on whether they should have the power to randomly or with cause to inspect officers’ personal phones to check they are not posting inappropriate material online.