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Cultural Revolution needed to restore trust in policing

25th Feb 2022

Obtaining public consent is one of the fundamental principles of policing, dating back to Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern ethical policing, some 200 years ago. In the absence of public confidence, it is virtually impossible for law enforcement agencies to operate without coercion and respect.

When trust is undermined, institutions are compromised. And this led London Mayor to pull the plug on the career of Dame Cressida Dick as Commissioner of the Met.

Many were surprised at her original appointment to become the first female leader of the country’s largest police force in 2017. The search was supposed to have been for a much-needed reforming figure, and yet she was likely to have been one of the most conservative candidates around. In particular, Dick was smeared by the notorious mistaken police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes over a decade earlier. It was an operation that she had commanded, but for which she accepted no blame.

The final straw in the Commissioner’s downfall seemed to have been the shocking Operation Hotton report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which exposed sickening overt evidence of racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny among police officers serving at Charing Cross Station. London. Nine police officers are still serving, with two even being promoted.

Damningly, it concluded that these issues were not isolated or historic. But her fate seemed doomed from the start when the confidence in the Met fell steeply, largely because of an explosion in using of stop and search for unnecessarily alienated minority communities, with little evidence it led to sustained falls in violence.

Policing can only work with the cooperation of the people the force is supposed to be protecting, acting as the eyes and ears in an active partnership to prevent crime, but not so when trust breaks down. There were many instances of confidence being shattered, including the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer. But even the policing of a peaceful vigil was mishandled.

There were the two officers caught sharing pictures of the murdered sisters, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and failings by the Met Police which contributed to the deaths of the final three victims of Stephen Port and the investigation being impeded.

Policing also needs to be seen to be independent, especially of Government influence. Yet there have been instances of it acting politically, as exampled in operation decision to guard statues in the capital at the expense of marshalling demonstrations. Dick’s reappointment by the Home Office last autumn also came as a surprise.

The situation was also further questioned by the Met’s original reluctance to investigate the illegal lockdown parties at Downing Street, with the PM at the centre of the allegations.

The Mayor says it is his job to support the police while also holding them to account on behalf of Londoners. His biggest concern was what he called “deep cultural issues” within the Met.

The only way to start seeing the level of change urgently required was with a new leadership right at the top. People need to hear “their police service publicly acknowledge the widespread nature of the problem, which is the most important step in starting to rebuild credibility with Londoners, crucial to public safety.”

The problem for Khan is that he does not appoint the Met Commissioner. It is within the remit of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, albeit in consultation with the Mayor. The difficulty is also that the police federation does not seem to accept that the dismissal of Dick was justified.

The issue is not just over leadership; it is also institutional. Changing the culture of the police is going to be very difficult, as it has been proven throughout society. It would need to be accompanied by a virtual revolution, which, under the current reluctance tone of Boris Johnson’s government, will be almost impossible to achieve.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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