Sir Mark Rowley on Tuesday apologised to the people of London for failures which have heaped “shame” on his force as he warned of a “long journey” ahead to restore the public confidence in the Met.
The Met Commissioner said he was “deeply sorry” for the “appalling examples of discrimination, the letting down of communities and victims and the strain felt by the frontline” which he admitted were both “unacceptable” and inexcusable.
He added that the findings in Baroness Louise Casey’s report published on Tuesday sparked “a whole range of emotions, of shame and anger” and that he was determined to put matters right.
But he declined to accept Baroness Casey’s conclusion that the Met is institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic. He said that while he accepted her diagnosis of the problems that had led her to adopt the label he was not willing to use “institutional” because the term had become politicised and meant “different things to different people”.
That decision will be contentious and clashes with Baroness Casey’s insistence that the Met should adopt all of the recommendations and findings in her report, rather than “cherry pick”.
But Sir Mark made clear his determination to overhaul his force, saying that reforms were already being implemented to tackle the toxic culture and policing failures set out in the report.
“This report is vivid and it is painful reading. I’m not going to underestimate its significance, the power of it, the scale of reform needed. We all want to fix it. We all know that we have let London down,” he said.
“The appalling examples of discrimination, the letting down of communities and victims and the strain felt by the frontline are unacceptable. I am deeply sorry for that. This report sparks a whole range of emotions, of shame and anger, but it also increases our resolve.
“We are going to stare down these issues and take them on. I absolutely understand why Londoners confidence has been shaken by events and this report will add to that sense of frustration, disappointment and upset with the Met.
“We are determined to change and have started on that journey but I’m cautious about listing a load of factors saying we’ve got this cracked. This is a long journey. We will do everything humanly possible to implement the recommendations.”
Sir Mark said that the way the Met is overseen and the impact of austerity, which are both highlighted by Baroness Casey as contributory factors to its failings, “can’t be excuses” and added that the “core of the problems are for policing and for us to confront.”
But he told reporters that he would not use the term “institutionally” racist, sexist or homophobic because although the diagnosis was “deeply troubling” and about “systemic and cultural failures”, it was a contentious term that he wanted to avoid.
“The institutional label, I understand,” he said. “The challenge for me as a police officer, I have to use practical, unambiguous, apolitical language and whilst I don’t demur from the right of anybody else to use the term, I don’t think it fits those criteria.
“It means different things to different people and also it’s become quite politicised as an idea. I’m a cop, I stay out of that. I’m about practicality and action. The practicality is yes we have those problematic individuals and we have systemic failings and we are taking action about both of them.”
Sir Mark also appealed to Londoners, politicians and others not to “pillory” his force, saying that “only criminals will gain” from such an approach, and urged them to instead join efforts to improve the Met.
He added that the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, where both Sarah Everard’s murderer Wayne Couzens and serial rapist David Carrick worked, could not be abolished overnight because of its role in protecting people, and he was doing “everything practically possible” to reform it.
Sir Mark added that he could not reduce the risk of any bad officer being in the force to zero, following the cases of Couzens and Carrick.
He added: “We are doing everything we can do to reduce that risk. Clearly, the cases of Carrick and Couzens show failings in policing in terms of how we vet and how we monitor the integrity of the organisation.
“I’ve spoken publicly about the various reviews re-vetting and pieces of work we’re doing that are producing more people leaving the organisation, it’s producing new intelligence, it’s leading to fresh investigations.
“I’ll give a full data update on that in the next couple of weeks. But it’s very clear to me already even within a few months, we’re sacking more people.
“And we’re getting more intelligence from our good frontline men and women.”