29 June 2022, 06:13 | Updated: 29 June 2022, 06:36
The family of a black schoolgirl who was strip-searched by Metropolitan Police officers has said “London deserves better” as the force was placed into special measures.
It was revealed on Tuesday that the UK’s largest police force has been placed under special measures following a string of failures.
In a letter to acting commissioner Stephen House, the boss at HM Inspectorate of Constabulary [HMIC] Matt Parr said there were “several examples of high profile incidents” which raise concerns about the Met’s performance and “are likely to have a chilling effect on public trust and confidence in the Met”.
Cases cited by Mr Parr included the murder of Sarah Everard, the findings of the independent inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, the stop and search of Bianca Williams and Child Q, who was stripped searched by officers at her school.
The family of Child Q, a teenager who was strip-searched by Met officers as she was menstruating, welcomed the move, claiming the force has shown “time and time again that it cannot do its job properly”.
They said the Met’s officers’ actions have had “life-changing, devastating” consequences for innocent people across London, including Child Q.
“It is no wonder that there is little to no faith left in the Metropolitan Police,” the family said.
“We hope the additional scrutiny of special measures will result in permanent change in the force’s culture and practices. The Met must now respond meaningfully to the failings which have been identified by HMICFRS as well as those identified by the numerous recent reports into its wrongdoing. Londoners deserve so much better.”
The decision by the police watchdog has been welcomed by London mayor Sadiq Khan and the Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Mr Khan said during the State of London Debate, hosted by LBC’s James O’Brien, that he welcomed the decision of the police inspectorate “because I’ve been calling for some time for systemic and cultural changes in our police service in the face of opposition from Priti Patel and Boris Johnson”.
He added: “That’s one of the reasons why we have an action plan, to win back trust and confidence from Londoners, particularly around making sure that we’re more accountable to our communities.”
He said he “asked the police inspectorate to look into the shortcomings in the Stephen Port investigation where four gay men were murdered by Stephen Port” and “supported Dame Louise Casey looking into the cultural practices of the police service”, adding: “That’s why ultimately I lost confidence in the commissioner because of her failure to address these issues.”
“We need the next commissioner to get it, and the next commissioner to be a reforming commissioner to win back the trust and confidence of those Londoners and those communities who’ve lost it,” he said.
Ms Patel said: “I expect the police to get the basics right. It is clear the Metropolitan Police Service is falling short of these expectations which is why I support the action that HMICFRS has taken today to highlight their failings – and I expect the Met and the London Mayor to take immediate action to begin addressing them.”
Others who welcomed the news included Mina Smallman, the mother of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.
She said it was “better late than never” for the Met to be entered in the process, having been critical of the force after two constables were jailed for sharing images of her daughter’s bodies on WhatsApp.
She told Channel 4 News: “I do feel terribly sorry that some of the things that I highlighted, with the selfies of our daughters, if they had acted more swiftly, perhaps Couzens would have been stopped in his tracks and Sarah would still be with us.”
She added that people have been challenging the Met on its practices since the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
“It’s the kind of papering over the cracks, trying to look as though you’re perfect,” she said. “And the only people who get away with that are the people who are the perpetrators.”
Patsy Stevenson, the 28-year-old detained at the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard, responded to the news writing online: “The Met police have been placed in special measures. That’s the whole tweet.”
The Met will be subject to external monitoring and reviews by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council under the move.
It will be scrutinised more, required to report to inspectors more regularly and may need to hit certain crime-fighting targets.
The force said: “We recognise the cumulative impact of events and problems that the Met is dealing with. We understand the impact this has had on communities and we share their disappointment.
“We are determined to be a police service Londoners can be proud of. We are talking to the Inspectorate about next steps.”
The move comes at a turbulent time for the Met after former chief Dame Cressida Dick stepped down from her role as commissioner in April.
Her replacement is expected to be unveiled in the summer, with Sir Stephen House running the force as acting commissioner.
It is between Sir Mark Rowley, the former Counter Terrorism Command boss who was in charge during the attacks at Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge in 2017, and Met Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave.
The Queen formally appoints them after a recommendation from the home secretary, Ms Patel. She must take Mr Khan’s thoughts on the appointment on board.
A source told LBC: “As the Police and Crime Commissioner responsible for Metropolitan Police, the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan is letting Londoners down.
“Conservative leadership has provided record funding and we are well on our way to delivering 20,000 additional police officers nationally, with 2,600 of those already recruited in London.
“While other forces across our country have made real headway in making streets safer, the Labour mayor of London has been asleep at the wheel and now finds himself as the police and crime commissioner in charge of the largest force in special measures.”
The Met is the second force to be placed under special measures in recent years. The watchdog placed Greater Manchester Police in the Engage process in 2020 after it failed to report 80,000 crimes.
Fourteen months later an inspection report found GMP was continuing to investigate crime poorly and taking too long to answer both 999 and non-emergency calls.
Inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said earlier this year the force still “doesn’t investigate crimes effectively, so some offenders escape justice and victims don’t get the service they deserve”.