An overhaul of the Metropolitan Police (Met) in London, U.K. is underway following the uncovering of widespread corruption which came to light after a serving officer was convicted of the rape and sexual assault of 12 women over 17 years.
Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, who has been tasked with cleaning up the force, has commended the honest majority of officers and staff who have joined the battle to restore trust and confidence in the Met as the focus on delivering higher standards continues.
Calls to the Met’s dedicated internal hotline raising concerns about officers’ integrity and behavior have more than doubled in the past six months, with 14 reports a week compared with an average of six previously.
A further 1,000 people have called the public-facing anti-corruption and abuse hotline, leading to 325 reports that are now being taken forward.
The investigation of new and legacy misconduct reports is a significant program of work that is placing unprecedented demand on the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards. It is being made possible by an increase in the number of officers and staff in the relevant departments and by redeploying officers from areas such as counterterrorism and serious and organized crime who have volunteered to contribute to the Met’s work on standards.
“It is clear that the vast majority of our officers and staff are determined to confront those who have corrupted our integrity,” Sir Mark said. “I have seen and heard this repeatedly in discussions with those on our frontline. This is our collective fight. Their pride in policing is undiminished but it has been challenged. I have been hugely encouraged by their willingness to step forward in these testing times. I said we were serious about this and I meant it. This is the strongest doubling down on standards in the Met for 50 years.”
Operation Onyx was commissioned following the appalling case of David Carrick, who raped and sexually assaulted 12 women over 17 years while serving as a Met officer.
The case laid bare multiple failings in the way the Met had dealt with reports about Carrick’s behavior over many years and called into question the integrity of the handling of other similar reports.
Op Onyx involved a thorough review of all completed sexual offense or domestic abuse cases from the last 10 years involving serving officers or staff where the allegation did not result in a dismissal at the time.
As of the end of March, the Onyx team had identified that risk assessments or vetting reviews should be conducted into 196 officers and staff. A further 689 cases will be subject to additional scrutiny to determine whether there are new or missed lines of enquiry that need to be pursued. No further action will be taken in relation to 246 cases where it has been found that all appropriate actions were taken.
In an undisclosed number of cases, officers from the newly established Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command will assess whether covert activity or other investigative tactics may now be needed to determine if alleged perpetrators pose any ongoing risk.
Last month, the Met became the first police service in the U.K. to adopt a new process to consider dismissing officers who can no longer pass vetting and who, as a result, have lost the Commissioner’s confidence.
Vetting reviews can now be triggered in a number of circumstances, including the conclusion of a criminal investigation, following a misconduct hearing where a written warning, final written warning or a reduction in rank has been issued, or when adverse information about an individual comes to the notice of Professional Standards officers.
If an officer or staff member can no longer meet the minimal vetting requirement, they will be unable to fulfill the duties expected as part of their role which may result in a finding of gross incompetence. Such a finding could lead to dismissal.
So far, 30 officers are being looked at as part of the operation and it is likely that number will increase to around 100 as the work progresses. A number of these officers will be among the 196 identified as part of Operation Onyx.
The details of all serving officers have now been checked against the Police National Computer. Those checks established that 161 officers have criminal convictions, around 0.5 per cent of the workforce.
A majority of those convictions – 121 – predate the officers joining the Met and 26 were from when the officers in question were under 18.
All convictions identified were known to the Met. Where convictions predate joining they will have been considered in line with national vetting standards and where they relate to offending during service they would have been subject to consideration by Professional Standards officers.
The details of all 50,000 people employed by the Met have been checked against more than five billion intelligence records held on the Police National Database.
The initial phase of this operation will inevitably produce a lot of coincidental matches that either don’t relate to anyone in the Met, for example someone else with the same name, or that relate to someone in the Met but only in so much as they were involved in an investigation as a victim or witness.
A dedicated team of officers is now painstakingly processing the data to eliminate those results and to identify any areas of concern such as suspected involvement in criminality or undeclared associations with criminals.
So far, 10,000 data matches have been assessed by the team, with 38 cases of potential misconduct and 55 possible criminal associations identified. The work to process the remainder of the data is expected to be completed by the summer.
Pace of delivery
Overall, there has been a 95 per cent increase in the number of completed investigations and a 70 per cent increase in the number of officers dismissed – 84 and 51 respectively – in the past six months when compared with the previous period.
More cases are being considered on an accelerated basis – 44 compared with 22 in the previous six months – cutting the time it takes to remove people from the Met when there is clear evidence, such as a criminal conviction, that they should not be here.
There has been a 109 per cent increase in the number of officers suspended in relation to new and historic investigations, with 144 officers currently suspended, up from 69 at the end of September 2022.
Sir Mark promised further updates on a quarterly basis.