‘Overworked’ Met supervisors missing wrongdoing, says watchdog

·4-min read

Metropolitan police supervisors supposed to spot failing officers are so over worked training new recruits that they are missing wrongdoing, an official inspection report has found.

The report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services reveal the deep chaos plaguing Britain’s biggest force which led to it being branded a failing force and placed in special measures in June amid fears its failings would otherwise get even worse.

The full report from the inspectorate, releasedon Thursday, identified several failings including tens of thousands of crimes and offenders being missed, emergency callers dialling 999 waiting too long for help and the Met’s former leadership failing to act on repeated warnings and calls to improve from the official inspectorate.

The watchdog graded the Met as inadequate in the way it responds to the public, while finding it required improvement in investigating crime, protecting vulnerable people, managing offenders, developing a positive workplace and making a good use of resources. It was judged as adequate in two areas of its police work but only found to be good in one other.

Despite lots of hard work and long hours worked, the force was failing victims, the public and its own workforce, the report said.

Matt Parr who led the inspection told the Guardian that the Met leadership, from former commissioner Cressida Dick downwards, deserved blame: “I’m not sure that the senior leadership understood quite how deep the problems were and what their role was in improving things.”

He added they were hard working public servants who cared deeply but lacked “grip” and “focus” and Parr said the new commissioner and top team lacked the defensiveness of Dick’s regime. Dick resigned in February after London mayor Sadiq Khan lost confidence she could turn the force around.

The report warned the new commissioner, Mark Rowley, in his second week in the job, that huge efforts would be required, and the Met is expected to be in special measures for at least a year.

One of the most urgent tasks is rooting out wrongdoing among officers after a series of scandals that sapped public confidence.

The report describes a badly organised workforce, over worked, lacking experience and suffering after a controversial reorganisation.

The inspectorate said those supposed to supervise – such as sergeants and inspectors – were having to show officers how to do the basics of their jobs: “We found that supervisors aren’t managing poor performance or giving opportunities for development. Supervisors are often having to spend time tutoring their staff in the basic tasks of their role at the expense of providing leadership and direction.”

The workforce was dejected, and help and welfare measures could be inaccessible: “Some told us that they didn’t tell their supervisors about how they felt at work because their supervisors couldn’t reduce the pressure from their overwhelming workloads. Other factors negatively affecting wellbeing include the poor training and supervision …”

The report also found that despite being better resourced than other forces, officers and staff were having to take work home to get it finished, with teams of response officers deployed to the streets under strength: “We found that many shifts were working at or below the force’s stated minimum personnel levels most of the time. This was negatively affecting officers’ welfare.

“In some teams, notably public protection teams, inexperienced staff were holding cases that they were not fully equipped to deal with, and lacked supervisory support.”

Call handling response times saw just over six out of 10 emergency calls answered in time, when the required standard is nine out of 10. Key details such as vulnerability failed to be recorded: “The force’s crime recording isn’t of an acceptable standard to make sure victims get the right level of service.”

Parr said the Met was capable of innovation and excellence, such as its policing of the Queen’s funeral, but too much of its core work was going wrong.

New computer systems the Met was relying on for improvements are delayed, it lacks knowledge of its workforce’s skills, and was led and organised so badly it risked being crushed by demands, said the report. It warned without big reforms “within three years up to 50% of demand may not be met”.

Victims too often were not being told how their cases were progressing and the Met leadership were warned about several of the failings after a 2019 inspection but failed to turn things around.

The force was making errors on stop and search with the grounds for stops not recorded in too many cases, thus thwarting scrutiny of whether they were justifiable.

In response the Met’s new leadership under Rowley vowed urgent and deep reforms.

Deputy commissioner, Lynne Owens, said: “We are both determined to renew policing by consent, working with communities to deliver the kind of police service Londoners need and deserve.

“We will be using data and insight to improve the Met’s performance on crime fighting and prevention.

“We want to remove as many hurdles as possible to make it easier for hardworking officers to fight crime, deliver justice and support victims.

“Our pledge to London is ‘more trust, less crime, high standards’.”