Lewisham police station sign
The Casey report said the force had institutional failings and needed far-reaching reform (photo: RachelH_ via Creative Commons)

The Metropolitan Police needs to accept that it is institutionally sexist, racist and homophobic, Greenwich Council’s leader has said after the damning Casey report into the force’s failings.

Anthony Okereke said that the Met “cannot continue to exist” without the reforms recommended by Baroness Casey, who found that the force had lost the trust of the public because discrimination was “baked into the system”.

Baroness Casey’s report was commissioned after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer. It found the Met still used “eye-watering force” against black people and that the investigation of violence against women was so degraded that broken fridges were used to store rape victims’ samples.

Casey has called for independent oversight of the Met – which answers to both the home secretary and the mayor of London – and said that she expects several hundred officers to be removed from the force as a result of her review.

In a statement issued with Ann-Marie Cousins, Greenwich’s cabinet member for community safety, Okereke said he was “appalled yet unsurprised by the findings in the Casey report”.

The two councillors said: “The breaches of trust and failure to properly protect people are shameful but will not come as a surprise to many of our residents, particularly black people and those from ethnic minorities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. The report reveals what many know and experience already – racism, misogyny and homophobia are widespread and go unpunished.

“In Greenwich, we work closely with our local police force to keep the borough as safe as it can be. The report talks about compassionate and committed police officers serving communities on the frontline. We know and work with these officers every day, those who often go above and beyond the call of duty for residents.

“But the Met as an institution is clearly broken, with the most damning findings and evidence from serving or former police officers themselves.”

Anthony Okereke with two police officers in Woolwich
Okereke praised the work of local officers in Greenwich borough

Okereke and Cousins said: “To restore public confidence, the Met must challenge its internal systems, processes and beliefs – this includes accepting the report’s findings that it is institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic. Only then can real change begin.”

But Sir Mark Rowley, the Met’s commissioner, has refused to use the word “institutional” when describing racism, sexism and homophobia in his force.

Challenged at the London Assembly yesterday, he said: “I have used the word systemic. So just to be very clear on this, there is zero defensiveness here. I completely accept the diagnosis that Louise [Baroness Casey] and her team have put on the table.

“The reason I’ve chosen not to use that word myself – I’m not disputing other people’s right to use it, I’m not trying to undermine that in any way.

“One – it is an ambiguous term. In wider debate, it gets used very differently.

“And besides being ambiguous, it has been a concept which the left and right have kicked around, about its validity or not – and that doesn’t make it any easier either.

“If I think something is the right thing to say, I couldn’t care less whether Labour like it, or Lib Dems, or the Tories like it, I’ll say it if it’s the right thing to say. But if it’s also confusing, I can’t go there.”

Additional reporting by Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

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