The Met Police: Does one bad apple spoil the barrel?


Following two high profile cases which have shamed the Metropolitan Police, addressing the ingrained culture is vital in improving public trust

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Image by Matt Brown

By Eliza Gill

CW: Rape, sexual assault

Wayne Couzens and David Carrick are two names which have become synonymous with the recent questions surrounding trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police.

In recent years, events have taken place which have shed a light on the deeply rooted culture of misogyny within the Met. The most prominent of these events occurred in March 2021, when Wayne Couzens raped and killed 33-year-old Sarah Everard whilst he was a serving officer. Vigils were held across the country in Sarah’s honour. One vigil on Clapham Common was made illegal under lockdown restrictions, but went ahead as an unofficial event. Several women were arrested for breaching lockdown regulations, and people could be heard chanting “arrest your own”, to the police. Questions surrounding an underlying culture within the Met were fast emerging.

At the Old Bailey in December 2022, former firearms officer PC David Carrick pleaded guilty to 24 counts of rape, nine counts of sexual assault, and more. In January, he pleaded guilty to further crimes, such as false imprisonment, indecent assault, and coercion. There were 49 charges in total. His relentless attacks spanned 17 years whilst he worked in the Met. He will be sentenced on 6 February 2023. Due to its longevity, this case in particular raised concerns over the effectiveness of the Met’s vetting process.

Concerns about both of these officers were seemingly laughed off through the use of nicknames. Couzens was deemed “the rapist”, and Carrick, “bastard Dave”. Other officers were told eight times of Carrick’s behaviour. Group chat messages sent between male officers demeaning female colleagues and joking about domestic violence victims, for example, have also been at the forefront of these revelations. Couzens’ colleagues Jonathon Cobban and Joel Borders were sentenced to twelve weeks for “grossly offensive messages” found in a group chat called ‘Bottle and Stoppers’, which all three were a part of. The judge deemed the messages to encapsulate “the full range of prejudiced views, racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia”. Bas Javid, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Met, said that there is a “need for real change” in the service.

It is not only the Met with issues such as these coming to light. Devon and Cornwall Police, West Midlands Police and South Yorkshire Police have recently seen serving officers jailed. Other emergency services have been brought into disrepute too, with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service coming under scrutiny after group chats were leaked. Images of female crash victims, paired with inappropriate messages, were exposed in a group chat. Female firefighters reported experiencing sexually inappropriate behaviour, but the male colleagues the allegations were made against continue to work for the service.

On 20 January, Refuge, a women’s charity specialising in support for domestic violence victims, placed 1,071 rotten apples outside New Scotland Yard. This figure reflects the number of officers who were, or are currently under investigation for allegations of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. This stunt aimed to portray the saying “one bad apple can spoil the barrel”, acting as a metaphor for how there may be other officers in the Met, who, like Carrick, have gone undetected. Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley “assured” Sadiq Khan that people like Carrick would be detected in the vetting process. Refuge’s chief executive Ruth Davison stated that in services such as the Met, “there is a culture that allows these officers to thrive” and that “we are not safe until policing is safe”. By “we”, Davison means women. The events disproportionately affect women’s trust in the police in particular, due to the heavily gendered aspect of the attacks. Questions are posed about how to counter this mistrust; would hiring more female officers be a suitable response? Does this combat the underlying culture of misogyny, or simply cover it?

These events have caused broader issues for the Met. Former Commissioner of the Met, Cressida Dick, was forced to resign following the surge of allegations, and a seemingly endless series of investigations into corrupt officers. When Sir Mark Rowley took over as Commissioner of the Met in September 2022, he proposed a ‘Turnaround Plan’, which aims to achieve “more trust, less crime, and high standards”. The plan includes establishing an Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command, which will aim to provide more proactive investigations into officers. However, the Met is still trying to recruit new officers, to meet its target within the national uplift of 20,000 by March. Will this pressure to meet the target lead to rushed vetting processes of candidates? Politicians such as former Home Secretary Priti Patel have voiced the need for tougher vetting processes. Patel led the response from the Government in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder. She has criticised the subjectivity of the vetting process, and called for more transparency, which she believes will act as a “disinfectant”. Regaining the public’s trust in the police and other public services will take time.

Sal Naseem, Independent Office for Police Investigations Regional Director for London, stated in an interview that “behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing”. Indeed, events such as these spark concerns surrounding trust in services which have a primary aim to protect.