Home Office police recruitment demands 'pushed Met focus away from diversity and skills'

Recruitment programme a "missed opportunity", finds review warning of racism, homophobia, misogyny and ableism in Met Police
Metropolitan Police officers. Photo: Khim Hoe Ng/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

21 Mar 2023

The Home Office’s demands for the Metropolitan Police to speedily recruit new officers contributed to staff being more concerned about hitting recruitment targets than improving skills and diversity, a report has found.

The review from former senior civil servant Louise Casey says the Met is “in danger of losing its way” and its values have been “disfigured” by the government’s austerity agenda.

The report warns of racism, misogyny, deep-seated homophobia, and ableism in the force, adding that discrimination is “tolerated, not dealt with and baked into the system”.

Criticism of the government's role in the organisation's failure is largely aimed at its recruitment programme.

In 2019, the Home Office announced plans to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers in England and Wales by the end of this month. The Police Uplift Programme, launched in 2020, aims to add an additional 4,557 officers for London to reach an officer headcount of 36,500.

The programme provided “unrivalled opportunities to help meet the growing complexity and demands of policing in London, and to contribute to building a Met which reflects Londoners, including their diversity” but had failed to do this, the review said.

Baroness Casey – a former Home Office director general – described the programme as a “missed opportunity to improve the diversity and skills base of its workforce” in the report.

The pace at which the government expected the Metropolitan Police to recruit new officers contributed to senior staff “seeming more concerned about hitting the recruitment target numbers for financial reasons” than meeting other objectives such as addressing demand pressures, broadening the force's skill base and improving diversity, the report said.

“This isn’t about being ‘woke’ or having politically correct quotas,” the report added.

“It means the Met is missing out on the talent it desperately needs to improve its effectiveness. It is also damaging community confidence, by failing to create a force that looks like the city it polices. This is creating a negative spiral in which some communities continue to have negative experiences at the hands of the police, trust them less, and are less likely to join."

If recruitment continues on its current trajectory, it will take at least another thirty years, until 2053, to reach gender balance, according to the review.

“It will take even longer, until 2061, to reach 46% Black, Asian and ethnic minority representation – what is needed to be representative of London today, let alone the even more diverse city it will be in nearly 40 years’ time,” the report added.

The National Audit Office has also warned of the risks from encouraging police forces to recruit quickly. In a July report, it said the “tension between recruiting more officers quickly and supporting police forces as they diversify their workforce”.

The Home Office has not set targets in the programme for the recruitment of officers from ethnic-minority groups or to ensure that forces are representative of the communities they serve. These objectives are left to individual forces to manage.

The Police Foundation's Strategic Review of Policing, published in March 2022, said the programme was having a negligible impact on workforce diversity. The Home Office rejected this conclusion but admitted it wanted the recruitment drive to have had a greater impact on diversity.

Casey was appointed by the Met to review the force's culture and standards after the murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens in 2021.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that Met commissioner Mark Rowley, who replaced Dame Cressida Dick last year, is “not in denial” about the issues facing the force.

Some are calling for the force to be disbanded. Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, told TalkTv that the Met "may need to be broken up" if Rowley and deputy Dame Lynne Owens cannot fix it. 

“When people start talking about the breakup of the Met, I wonder if that’s almost an inevitability now," she added.

But Rowley told Today that breaking up the force would distract from focus on reforms that are needed. He said he will make changes changes that will will lead to progress “month by month, quarter by quarter and certainly after a couple of years”.

Home secretary Suella Braverman told Sky News the report "makes for very difficult reading" and shows there have been "serious failings at a leadership and cultural level". She said it was up to the force's leadership to "change the culture, change the practice and change the systems in place that are running and regulating the Met".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The home secretary has been clear that there have been serious failures of culture and leadership in the Metropolitan Police, which is why since taking over as Commissioner in September 2022, Sir Mark Rowley has been taking action to restore confidence in policing in London.

"While recruitment is a matter for individual forces, police forces should become more reflective of the diverse communities they serve.

“We have provided policing with over £3bn since 2019 to support the unprecedented drive to recruit 20,000 additional police officers and across England and Wales there are now record numbers of women and ethnic minority officers.”

As of 31 December 2022, forces across England and Wales have recruited 16,753 additional officers as part of the programme. 

The Met currently employs 5,892 ethnic minority officers, which is more than half the total in England and Wales.

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