The Casey Review into the standards and culture of the Metropolitan Police Service is deeply disturbing but, after repeated revelations over many years, sadly not surprising. It describes pervasive sexism, racism and homophobia. One of the country’s worst sex offenders was found inside the police service. Institutional racism remains decades after the Macpherson report.
In such circumstances it is common to refer to “bad apples”. Indeed the report itself mentions them. There are certainly many good officers who risk their lives and wellbeing to protect the public. But the origin of the phrase was not intended to refer to isolated incidents. It was to warn that bad apples can spoil the entire barrel. If you tolerate the rot it will spread and eventually corrupt everything; all the good that the institution might do. And when we read that our fundamental tradition of policing by consent is at breaking point, we can see the price being paid.
The journey of a police force from a public service to a potential public threat causes immense harm to every single one of us and, according to the report and many other examples, especially to women, people or colour and the LGBTQ+ community. The report rightly pays tribute to the courage of the victims and their families in challenging this culture.
I began reading the report with the pessimistic view that the only way to change such an entrenched culture is to close the institution down and start again. That may still be the case. But the review also contained a thoughtful analysis of the role of management and leadership, HR and workforce strategy, and robust processes for complaints, audit and scrutiny. Change could be possible. But this work requires capacity, enduring commitment and no shortage of conflict. It is a daunting task, but one we all have a stake in succeeding.