Louise Casey’s report on the Met Police is to be published on Tuesday. Media coverage suggests that it will show the force to be riddled with racism, sexism and homophobia. Already, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has come to the Met’s defence, claiming that ‘the vast majority’ of cops act ‘professionally’. This is an argument often used to defend police – the system in general is fine, the problem is individual ‘rotten apples’. In this in-depth report, Daire Nevis highlights how the issues go far beyond individuals, listing 24 reasons why we need to abolish the Met.
The Metropolitan Police was founded by Robert Peel in 1829. It is Britain’s largest and oldest police force, founded four years before the abolition of slavery. Peel cut his teeth on imposing British rule in Ireland, and he used the Royal Irish Constabulary to secure the smooth running of Britain’s punitive and extractive colonial regime, in spite of Irish uprisings. Alex S. Vitale writes that the original function of the Met Police was ‘to protect property, quell riots, put down strikes and other industrial actions, and produce a disciplined industrial work force.’ Its original aim was to police, punish and incarcerate the working class, especially women and racialised groups. Today it is clear that it cannot escape these roots.
In February 1999 the MacPherson Report was published, labelling the Metropolitan Police ‘institutionally racist’ and condemning their racist and inept response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The report came out just one month after police held down Roger Sylvester until he stopped breathing. He died a week later.
The MacPherson Report was touted as heralding ‘a new era of race relations’. 24 years later, looking at the Met’s behaviour since that proclamation, we can only conclude that all reforms to the police must hold police and prison abolition as their ultimate horizon.
The Met Police don’t protect or serve
1. The Met aren’t very good at dealing with ‘crime’
The category ‘crime’ designates behaviour the state will not tolerate – it is used to defend private property, borders and capital, and to create a class of ‘criminals’ who are disenfranchised and wrenched from their communities. Even harms we would like to stop, such as sexual violence and illegal evictions, are dealt with by robbing the affected communities of their power and pulling the victim through a traumatising criminal justice procedure – if it gets that far.
So on that reduced basis, how are the Met doing? The stats would suggest: not well. ‘The proportion of crimes resulting in a charge and/or summons remained stable during the pandemic but this year fell to 5.6%, which continues the long-term downward trend.’ Figures from 2021 showed the Metropolitan Police were one of the worst forces in England and Wales for ‘solving’ sexual and violent crime. The Met investigated just 22 of thousands of illegal evictions in 2020. Insofar as the Met are there to deal with ‘crime’, they aren’t very successful even on their own terms.
The Met Police use gratuitous force, including against children
Since 1999, the Met Police have shot and killed 27 people. In 2011, police shot and killed Mark Duggan. Despite Duggan being unarmed, the court inquest found that he was “lawfully killed,” as is the verdict in the majority of these cases. Just last year, Met officers shot and killed 24-year-old Chris Kaba. The IOPC inquest is still underway and Kaba’s family and community are keeping up pressure for justice in this case.
3. Deaths in Police Custody
Between 1999 and today, 135 people are known to have died in Metropolitan Police custody. The United Friends and Families Campaign continue to fight for justice for these victims of police brutality.
In June 2022, police mistook Oladeji Omishore’s cigarette lighter for a screwdriver, which was their excuse to taser him repeatedly. He then fell off Chelsea Bridge into the Thames, and died later that day. An IOPC spokesperson said: ‘At this early stage we have no indication that any of the officers involved may have breached police professional standards or committed a criminal offence.’ It took them almost two weeks to correct their statement about the screwdriver. In the first 10 months of 2019, nearly 74% of Met Police Taser use on children was on BAME children.
5. Spit hoods
Spit hoods are tightly meshed sack-like hoods, pulled over people’s heads with the intention of protecting police from spitting. Liberty describes them as ‘distressing, degrading and potentially lethal’, and already several adults have died after being hooded by police. Spit hoods were rolled out in recent years without any robust claim as to why, and were used on over 100 kids in 2018, including children as young as 10.
6. Child Q
In April 2022, Met Police strip searched a 15-year-old girl without any safeguarding adult present. A Freedom of Information request to the Met revealed that the force conducted over 9,000 strip searches on children in the past five years. What happened to Child Q is devastatingly common and has fuelled a campaign to end strip searches by the police. It also led to the biggest anti-police demonstration since 2011, which blocked the main road outside the police station for hours.
7. Strip searches
A Freedom of Information request into details of Met Police strip searches between 2019 and 2021 found that 92,000 strip searches were recorded, over 5,000 on children under 18. Koshka Duff took a judicial review against the Met officer Kurtis Howard’s decision to strip search her after she was arrested for giving legal advice to a young man being stopped and searched. She is running another to push further the issue that strip searches should not be in the police repertoire of tactics.
The Met Police uphold racist policy
8. The Met Police are still ‘institutionally racist’ no matter how ‘diverse’ they appear
Despite 24 years to act upon the MacPherson Report, it is undeniable that the police apply laws in different ways to white vs racialised communities. But the force is more than just a collection of racist individuals applying policy in a discriminatory way: the policies that they are there to uphold are racist and designed to police and maintain power structures that rely on racism to reproduce themselves, as we illustrate below. As Northern Police Monitoring Project summarises, ‘At every level of policing, racism endures as a problem. From stop and search and inclusion in “gang” databases, to the use of tasers and deaths following police contact, black people are disproportionately likely to be harmed by the police.’
In 2020, the Met Police were told that 40% of new recruits must be from a BAME background. This is an irresponsible attempt to place the onus for anti-racism in the police upon BAME officers, rather than reckoning with the ‘institutional racism’ and white supremacy reported two decades previously. The ‘more Black officers’ argument assumes that black people are inherently anti-racist. Research on racial profiling carried out by black police officers in the US shows this assumption to be false. Institutional racism cannot be solved with tokenistic police diversity, because each new recruit enters an environment where it is difficult if not impossible to challenge the institutional norm. More black officers create only ‘the illusion of change.’
9. Predictive Policing
Not only are the Met Police racist, they ingrain and cement their historical racism through the use of AI, exonerating themselves from culpability for their decisions. Since at least 2014, they have been using predictive machine learning software to suggest which crime ‘hotspots’ to patrol. Of course, the data the algorithmic system uses comes entirely from the Met Police database which, as we know, is ‘institutionally racist’. Producing these racist decisions through an algorithmic system gives the Met Police an appearance of neutrality as they continue to target racialised and criminalised neighbourhoods.
10. Gang Matrix database
The Metropolitan Police’s Gang Violence Matrix contains the names and details of thousands of people who police say pose a risk of committing gang violence. In consequence, they face greater exclusion by the benefits system, education and housing. Criteria for inclusion on the database includes who someone is friends with and where they live. Some in the database are as young as 13. A review of the list in 2021 saw 1,000 names of people who posed no risk at all removed. But the remaining names are still 86.5% from BAME communities.
11. Collusion with Border Control
The Met Police regularly co-operate with border control services, as in Operation Nexus. Nexus was introduced in 2012 and is a scheme to embed immigration officers in police custody suites across the UK. The police’s collusion in border control extends to victims of violence as well as those suspected of criminal offences. Written evidence to Parliament by the organisation Clinks raises instances where the police have reported victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence to the Home Office. Thus, migrant survivors of violence are often either deterred from seeking protection through the courts system entirely, or they risk being sent into the traumatising hands of the detainment and deportation arms of state violence.
The Met stops strikes and represses protest
12. Crushing strikes
Police are used as a bulwark against the working class fighting for better conditions, and have a long history of heavy-handed policing at picket lines, most notably during the miners’ strike of 1984-5. Today’s Met Police can be called on by businesses to break pickets that are deemed to be a ‘nuisance’ to the workplace, and they work with employers in various ways to increase co-operation between bosses and the police (see for example this gross scheme where employers can get their staff trained up as voluntary special constables). When Met Police officers tried to break a picket outside a London medical school in 2020, the legality of their actions was questioned by a trade union lawyer present. Police promptly placed this barrister under arrest. Police themselves are not allowed to strike, perhaps lending an envious streak to their aggression toward striking workers…
The tactic of kettling has been used regularly by the Met since the 1990s, especially at protests. It is a repressive crowd management technique that involves surrounding protesters in such a way as to detain them, sometimes for hours on end, and arresting anyone that attempts to leave the cordon. Infamously, they were used to contain hundreds of people for hours inside a police cordon in Oxford Circus at a protest against the World Bank in 2001, without food, water or toilet facilities. Some kettles, such as a 2013 anti-fascist protest in East London or the 2010 student fees protests ended with police arresting protesters one by one for no clear reason – many of whom were de-arrested later or never charged with offences.
14. Protecting fossil capital
Barclays is the worst bank in Europe for investing in fossil fuel extraction, and is thus a key contributor to the ongoing ecocide which will cause mass death and displacement across the globe. Despite this social murder, when women from Money Rebellion tried to raise awareness of Barclay’s crimes by breaking the windows of its Canary Wharf HQ in 2021, it was not the bankers who the Met Police came to arrest, but the activists.
Censorship, cover-ups and surveillance
In July 2001, Migrant Media launched their film Injustice, documenting killings in police custody and the families fighting back against the impotence of the Police Complaints Authority. 19 minutes before the premiere, the police faxed the Metro Cinema threatening legal action if they showed the film, and the screening was stopped. They used the same intimidation tactics at the next screening in Conway Hall, but the audience barricaded themselves inside and screened the film. The film can be watched online here.
16. Racist targeting of black musicians and events
Between 2005 and 2017, the Metropolitan Police used the controversial Form 696, a risk assessment that primarily targeted music venues which host events aimed at black audiences and with black performers. The form asked the stage and real names, addresses and phone numbers of all performers, as well as questions about the ethnicity of the audience. Form 696 played a big part in normalising moral panic about black artists, leading to many musicians such as the rapper Giggs having their concerts in London shut down.
17. Surveillance with impunity
During the 2011 Occupy movement, Met Police asked all businesses and local companies to report sightings of anarchists. This, alongside the policing and repressing of protests, is part of a longer-term police strategy to safeguard the wealthy few from the many who would challenge their hegemony.
Throughout the 90s and 00s, Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) spied on trade unionists and climate activists, and entered relationships with women under false pretences, in order to control and manage left-wing groups and others who might challenge state power and capital. The Spycops Inquiry continues to bring to light more instances of harm caused by undercover police. In February 2023, the inquiry ruled that the Scotland Yard unit was not justified in intruding deeply into the private lives of campaigners, including their sexual relationships, and that undercover policing caused ‘outrage and pain’ to the public and acted in a sexist and racist way.
19. Covering up for Boris
As Sue Gray worked to produce a Cabinet Office report on Downing Street’s ‘Partygate’ scandal, the Met Police requested for ‘minimal reference to be made’ about the party on which she was reporting. Many recognised this as a cover-up for the Prime Minister’s recklessness and impunity during the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, the Met Police used their heightened powers during Covid to overstate incidence of illegal raves and disproportionately targeted BAME people with Covid fines.
20. Blatant lies
In 2017, 20-year-old Rashan Charles died after an incident with Met Police in Hackney. The BBC quoted Scotland Yard’s insistence that police ‘intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself.’ Writer and agitator Kuchenga published some pertinent questions in response:
- If the police officer believed that Rashan had swallowed an object, why did the officer put his arm around Rashan’s neck and wrestle Rashan to the ground?
- Will the officer be suspended until the investigation has been concluded or will he be free to patrol the community that has been traumatised by this death?
- How can the Metropolitan Police justify using a chokehold as lawful, proportionate and necessary, if the suspect is believed to have their windpipe blocked by an object?
- Will the police accept responsibility if the non-uniformed person’s intervention contributed to Rashan’s death?
- Will the Metropolitan police ban the use of chokeholds as a legal form of restraint?
The Met Police perpetuate homophobic and gender-based violence
21. Homophobia and ignoring crimes against the LGBT+ community
Between June 2014 and September 2015, serial killer Stephen Port killed four young gay men. The Met’s handling of the murders has attracted scrutiny, with victims’ friends and family commenting on the homophobia and callousness of the Met police officers during inadequate investigations into the murders – including not seeing male partners as ‘next of kin’.
22. Police targeting of sex workers
Although it is legal to sell sex in Britain, ‘persistently loitering for the purpose of prostitution’ is criminalised. One of the safer environments for sex work is working together in a flat, but in 2013 Met Police attempted to close down 20 working flats in Soho, confiscating the earnings of 300 sex workers in the process. As Juno Mac and Molly Smith write in Revolting Prostitutes, police persecution of sex workers produces more ‘silence, precarity and vulnerability’ in a trade where it is difficult to secure safe work environments.
23. The Met are institutionally misogynistic
Historically, women were not allowed to become police officers, and when they were admitted to the force, they were restricted to cases involving women, children and family welfare. To this day, 69.6% of Met police officers are still men. In 2021, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) released findings from its Operation Hotton investigations into the misconduct of several Met Police officers, and found widespread complicity with abusive men and sexist behaviour, showing consistent a failure by management and peers to challenge sexist incidents where male police officers had abused their power with colleagues and the public, widespread discrimination, and a culture of joking about rape and sexual harassment.
24. …and a shocking number of Met officers are abusers
As of January 2023, 1,071 Met Police officers were under investigation for alleged domestic and sexual violence. A Met detective was jailed for three years after using hidden cameras to spy on 19 women in rented rooms such as hotels and Airbnbs. Protests erupted in 2021 when Met officer Wayne Couzens arrested Sarah Everard by pulling out his badge while off duty, and then killed her. The incident highlighted how the power afforded to police opens new possibilities for abuse. In 2021, Met Police Officer David Carrick was found guilty of 71 serious sexual offences, including 24 counts of rape, across 17 years of Metropolitan Police service. Police don’t solve rape – they are all too often its perpetrators. How can police protect survivors of rape, when 2% of Met Officers are currently alleged to have committed sexual and domestic violence? We need to find other answers to the question of how to deal with rapists than depending on the police.
Since 1990 there have been 1,774 deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with police in England & Wales – more still were killed before that, and more still have been killed in British prisons.
Last year, a YouGov poll found that the public’s belief that the police were doing a ‘good job’ dropped by 22% in the space of 2 years. As of last March, 47% had ‘not very much confidence’ or ‘no confidence at all’ in the police. With continued pressure from below, this vote of no confidence could win more gains for the growing movement to defund and abolish the police.
While the government continues to roll out more and more legislation to increase police power, curb the right to protest, and curb the right for workers to take industrial action, organisations like Sisters Uncut, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Socialists, 4Front, Northern Police Monitoring Project, Sistah Space, African Rainbow Family and B’ME Cancer Communities, Decrim Now are at the forefront of the abolitionist movement to work toward the transformation to a world without police.
Daniel Adewole, Christopher Alder, Dalian Atkinson, Jermaine Baker, Sheku Bayoh, Derek Bennet, Ricky Bishop, Leon Briggs, Dale Burns, Kingsley Burrell, Nuno Cardoso, Rashan Charles, Paul Coker, Julian Cole, Richard Cottier, Smiley Culture, Darren Cumberbatch, Edson da Costa, Jean Charles de Menezes, Brian Douglas, Mark Duggan, Sarah Everard, Joy Gardner, Anthony Grainger, Robert Haines, Andrew Hammond, Glenn Howard, Philip Hulmes, Paul Jemmott, Chris Kaba, Keith Larkins, Olaseni Lewis, Alton Manning, Jason McPherson, Adrian McDonald, Jacob Michael, Mzee Mohammed, Jimmy Mubenga, Terry Nicholas, Patrick O’Donell, David Oluywale, Oladeji Omishore, Nicholas Palmer, Leon Patterson, Mikey Powell, Sarah Reed, Sean Rigg, Azella Rodney, Harry Stanley, Aseta Simms, Trevor Smith, Roger Sylvester, Ian Tomlinson, and more.
Rest in power.
No justice. No peace.