January 2023: ‘Rotten to the core and a danger to society’ - new year, same old Met
The beginning of 2023 couldn't have been worse for policing in the UK, but somehow, we sense it's still going to get a whole lot worse
Welcome to the first newsletter of 2023. January has been a busy month for us here at StopWatch – but not quite as busy, we imagine, as it has been for the PR and HR teams of our nation’s police forces as horrific stories of police misconduct continue to emerge with alarming frequency.
Police misconduct has been such a significant feature of the news this month (not just in the UK, but also around the world: for example, the brutal murder of yet another Black man, Tyre Nichols, by police in the US) to the extent that the word ‘misconduct’ feels like a grossly inadequate – and borderline offensive – way to describe the shameless violence, abuse of power, and total moral corruption steadily oozing from police forces up and down the country.
But alongside the rage and disgust that we feel towards those in the police who abuse their power, and towards those who allow them to do so, we also feel hope – hope that the power of collective action and resistance will enable us to stand up to an institution that cultivates racism, misogyny, and homophobia like no other.
It was this idea – the power of hope and collective action – that underpinned our girls and young women’s research project event held earlier this month in Manchester, where a number of individuals and organisations came together to discuss women’s experiences of policing in Manchester and beyond. A special shout-out has to go to our incredible host, Zara Manoehoetoe, and to Shenna Darcheville, StopWatch’s youth voice and participation lead. To hear more about the event, and about the girls and young women’s research project, subscribe to the project’s newsletter, which is published every other month, and look out for our podcast, too.
In the meantime, given the sheer number of stories we’ve sifted through to put this newsletter together, we suggest you heed the advice of one headteacher at a secondary school in London, who warned her pupils ‘not to allow a lone policeman to approach you at any time’ (BBC News, 20 Jan).
Topics in this newsletter include:
The case of David Carrick, the Met’s serial rapist who for two decades terrorised women – and was allowed to get away with it
The Runnymede Trust’s report on the police’s ‘Safer Schools’ scheme – spoiler alert: the scheme doesn’t make schools safer
Dozens of cases of police misconduct – and the failure to properly address them
Please enjoy our roundup of stories below.
Increased powers and increased funding planned for an entirely irredeemable institution
Earlier this month, charity Refuge dumped 1,071 ‘bad apples’ outside New Scotland Yard: one apple for each Met police officer who has been, or is currently, under investigation for allegations of domestic abuse or violence against women. There are no two ways about it: the Met is a force that is truly ‘rotten to the core and a danger to society’ (The Guardian, 21 Jan).
The stunt came in response to the news about David Carrick, an elite Met police officer who earlier this month was revealed as not just serial rapist who ‘waged a campaign of terror and humiliation against women for two decades’ (The Guardian, 16 Jan), but one of the worst sex offenders in modern British history. The Met ‘ignored eight warnings about PC David Carrick’s abusive behaviour’ (The Guardian, 16 Jan), enabling him to carry out 85 serious offences over 17 years, and to use his status as a police officer to manipulate, threaten, and silence his victims: ‘Carrick’s position […] was not incidental to his crimes, but enabled them’ (The Guardian, 17 Jan).
The ‘deeper horror’ of the Carrick case, as we know, ‘is not its singularity but the chilling fact that this is familiar terrain’ (The Guardian, 17 Jan). ‘The Met Police has proved yet again it is a haven for sex offenders’, writes the New Statesman’s Rachel Cunliffe: ‘David Carrick used his position to rape and abuse. Why are we surprised?’
‘Indeed, there has been hostility from the Met at the idea the force was in any way to blame for Carrick’s two decades of crime. But […] [Carrick] is exactly the kind of individual we should expect to find in the Met – because the Met not only hands to its officers power that can so easily be abused, but has demonstrated again and again that those who do abuse it will still be able to flourish.’
(The New Statesman, 16 Jan).
The Carrick case wasn’t the only story of sexual violence and gross abuse of power by a police officer to surface this month, either. Days after a report was published by the Runnymede Trust on the police’s ‘Safer Schools’ scheme, which found that ‘the full scope of police presence in schools is 43% greater than previous figures have suggested’ (Runnymede Trust, 16 Jan), a serving Met officer who was working as a Safer Schools officer (SSO) in north London pleaded guilty to a number of child sex offences (BBC News, 25 Jan). The Runnymede Trust’s investigation found that police officers are more likely to be based in schools in areas with higher numbers of Black and ethnic minority students, and that across the country, there are plans to increase the number of SSOs by 7%.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, whose ‘Turnaround Plan’ was published the same day as Refuge’s ‘bad apple’ action, took more than six hours to apologise for police failures as the Carrick case hit the headlines (The Daily Telegraph, 17 Jan). The following week, Rowley told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee: ‘We have to prepare for more painful stories [to come out]’ (The Guardian, 25 Jan). ‘Lifting the stone reveals painful truths that will not be resolved overnight’, Rowley admits in the foreword to his Turnaround Plan, ‘and it is critical that these truths cause none of us to lose our resolve to renew [founder of the Met police] Peel’s vision of policing by consent’.
However, Rowley’s dream of restoring the myth of ‘policing by consent’ is looking increasingly unachievable. Predictably, the Carrick case sparked the usual calls for cosmetic reformist policies aimed at ‘fixing’ the force and its misogyny problem – including an immensely helpful suggestion from Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer that the Met explore the possibility of a name change (The Guardian, 19 Jan) as part of a review.
Others in the mainstream media have called for the Met to be disbanded: an idea that several years ago might have been regarded as extreme by those now proposing it as a solution. But as commentator Jonathan Freedland writes: ‘It’s an extreme solution, but the problem is extreme’ (The Guardian, 20 Jan). Branding the force ‘a diseased institution’, his suggestion is to ‘scrap the Met and start again’.
But although many people are coming round to the notion that the Met’s time is up, others are still in a serious state of denial – not least Rowley himself, who believes ‘we should be optimistic about the future of policing’ (LinkedIn, 1 Jan). Andy Cooke, Chief inspector of HMICFRS (the body responsible for independently assessing police forces in England and Wales) refused to accept the scale of the problem of police violence against women while being questioned by a Commons home affairs select committee: ‘Institutionally misogynist, no I don’t think it is’, he said (Evening Standard, 18 Jan) – contrary to literally hundreds of pages’ worth of evidence published by his own institution (among many others).
Concerningly, all of this comes at a time when increased powers are on the agenda for police in the UK in the form of new anti-protest powers and expanded stop and search powers via new civil orders, continuing a years-long trend that also includes the SpyCops Act of 2021 and last year’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act as recent additions. Seemingly unbothered by the fact that the UK ‘risks being listed as a “human rights abuser”’ (The Guardian, 12 Jan), and despite acknowledging that public trust in the police has been shattered by recent revelations, PM Rishi Sunak is pressing ahead with his mission to expand police powers through an amendment to the Public Order bill (POB) (The Guardian, 15 Jan).
The POB, explains Novara Media’s Rivkah Brown, ‘is the Tories’ latest attempt to expand police powers to deal with escalating protest action, particularly from environmental and anti-racist movements, by effectively treating it as domestic terrorism’ (Novara Media, 24 Jan). One of the bill’s amendments is particularly worrying:
‘The PCSC Act made it possible for the police to put conditions on protests if they thought it would cause “serious disruption” (some might argue, the very point of having a protest). Now, this new amendment to the public order bill makes clear that the police won’t have to wait for that serious disruption to happen – they can simply shut it down if they think it might.’
(Novara Media, 24 Jan)
And of course, Mark Rowley claimed that his support for the legislation was not based on the new powers it would give his officers, but purely on a point of ‘legal clarity about where the balance of rights should be struck’ (The Guardian, 15 Jan).
Luckily, a minor victory was won yesterday as the House of Lords struck down the government’s amendment to the POB:
But this isn’t the end of the expansion of police powers in 2023 (which we at StopWatch will be tackling further down the line). And police power isn’t being bolstered by legal means alone – but also by financial means. According to the provisional police grant report for 2023-24, home sec Suella Braverman also plans to make £275,000,000 available ‘to local policing bodies to support […] the maintenance and retention of an overall officer headcount comprising of police forces’ agreed Police Uplift baseline plus their allocation of the 20,000 additional police officers recruited through the Police Uplift Programme’, on top of other central and local funding – in some areas financed by council tax hikes.
Ultimately, cosmetic reforms such as a name change or a new leader, or organisational restructures such as a disbandment and reformation are simply not enough to tackle the numerous urgent issues in UK policing – nor is increasing funding for an institution that claims it would be less violent and abusive if only it were to have a bit more money to throw around. As US-based abolitionist activist Derecka Purnell wrote yesterday in response to the brutal killing of Tyre Nicholls by five Memphis police officers (The Guardian, 30 Jan):
‘They [politicians] line up the public to a theme park full of reforms and just promise us a different ride would be worth our time, energy, and effort. We have to get out of the park.’
Deaths from police contact, cases old and new
‘Godrick Osei died in July shortly after officers arrived at a care home where he was suffering a mental health crisis. The watchdog is investigating – but all officers involved remain on active duty’ (The Independent, 3 Jan).
Unnamed 62-year-old man
‘A 62-year-old man died after being hit by a police car in Livingston on Boxing Day, Scotland's police investigations commissioner has said’ (Sky News, 27 Dec).
Rachael was hit by a marked police vehicle travelling on Sheil Road in Liverpool on Christmas Eve (The Mirror, 27 Dec).
Met officer pleads guilty to false imprisonment and actual bodily harm: PC Sam Grigg, 36, used duct tape to restrain Natasha Rabinowitz in a house in Twickenham, south-west London, on 2 December last year. (BBC News, 5 Jan).
Cop who took pic of teen's breasts then texted, ‘god I’d do you’ claimed there was 'nothing sexual' about it: PC Paul Hinchcliffe has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault following a work event where he allegedly ‘simulated ejaculation’ by flicking beer foam at her chest (JOE, 7 Jan).
No action taken on 90% of complaints against police officers, figures show: Of over 86,000 allegations handled under an official process in 2021-22, a tiny 0.2 per cent resulted in disciplinary proceedings (The Independent, 12 Jan).
IOPC investigator quit over Bianca Williams stop and search case: An investigator has revealed she quit her job at the police watchdog over the handling of a complaint about the stop and search of two black athletes (BBC News, 18 Jan).
Met Police culture of racism and sex abuse left black staff ‘suicidal’, serving officer claims: The officers gave details of abuse and even rape by officers within the Met which they say, are ‘not uncommon’ (ITV News, 24 Jan).
Cressida Dick wanted £500k payout for leaving the Met: Documents have emerged showing messages between Dick’s senior aide and advisers for Sadiq Khan at the time of her exit last year (The Times, 30 Jan).
Section 60 watch*
Basildon (3-4 Jan)
Slough (14-16 Jan)
Birmingham (29 & 30 Dec), Walsall (28-29 Jan)
Harpurhey (1-2 Jan), Levenshulme (23-24 Jan)
Ipswich (17-20 Jan)
Ealing (17-18; 26-27 Jan), Merton (25-26 Jan)
* This is not a comprehensive list
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