Met Police reviewer worried home secretary ‘doesn’t understand the size of reform needed’

Louise Casey says Suella Braverman's job is not to support the Met commissioner to do what he wants
Louise Casey speaking at the Home Affairs Committee session. Photo:

By Tevye Markson

23 Mar 2023

The author of this week’s scathing report into the Metropolitan Police has raised concerns that the home secretary does not understand the scale of reform needed and the role she should play to encourage the force to change.

Louise Casey’s review into the Met, published on Tuesday, said the force is “institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic” and “losing its way” and called for a series of reforms to help the Met get back on its feet, also setting timescales for when those transformations should be achieved by.

The 16 recommendations – some of which contain several reforms – include bringing in new specialist expertise from outside the Met in permanent non-advisory roles; a new, independent, multidisciplinary team to reform how it deals with misconduct cases; a new board to oversee the Met; and the government providing the Met with new powers.

But Baroness Casey, a former Home Office director general, told MPs she was “worried” that the size of reform recommended in the report was not reflected in Suella Braverman’s response to the review on Tuesday.

She said the home secretary had responded to every question in the House of Commons with “I support Mark Rowley”. Casey said it was right to say that but not enough.

“You just can’t just say ‘I’ll trust him let him get on with it’, no matter how brilliant that individual is,” she told the Home Affairs Committee.

“It's not ‘I support Mark to do whatever he wants’. It’s actually the job of the government to support the change needed in the metropolitan police by supporting Mark Rowley.”

She suggested Braverman should be saying something like: “I support the commissioner by putting new powers in place where needed but in the meantime supporting the commissioner in being brave and bold about the level of the reform required.”

Instead, she said the response from Braverman left her feeling “slightly concerned” that the government and Met Police might “pick and choose” the recommendations in her report.

“I think the size of the reform needed isn’t necessarily quite as well understood as I would want it to be,” she said.

“To be fair, they only got the report days of ahead of when everyone got it and it is 360 pages and so I completely understand that will take time. But I think people need to see that it is not an either/or [situation].”

This was also pointed out by Neil O’Connor, a policy adviser for the review, who said: “I think they have recognised the importance, for example, of public confidence as a measure.

“But I think one of the points of the review is the comprehensiveness of the issues and the interconnectedness of these issues and the need for wholesale reform.

“So rather than taking a tactical approach and looking at one indicator or another, and focusing on single issues, it’s really important to look at the whole piece and look at progress across the piece.”

Casey said the size of reform needed is similar to the transformation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary into The Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2001.

But she said what she has heard so far has made her concerned that the reform of the Met “won’t work and that in 20 years from now somebody will be sitting before [the Home Affairs Committee] and saying that Casey review in 2023 laid it bare and nothing changed”.

As well as recommending reforms, Casey’s review also sets out measures that should be used to test whether the reforms are taking place and being delivered at the scale and pace necessary. These include: improvements in public trust,  confidence and fairness; the increase in the proportion of misconduct cases where action is taken; and narrowing in the gap between the diversity of the Met’s workforce and the make-up of the city it polices.

The report calls for progress reviews in two and five years but Casey said she would “start to look at some key things in about a year” because “you should get the clean-up right within a year”. 

Casey said she has offered to carry out these reviews herself but feels it is "unlikely they will ask me to come back...because they’ll find it all too difficult rather than be brave". She also told MPs she would "happily" come back to the committee in a year and say if she does not think the Met is changing sufficiently enough.

If sufficient progress is not being made over the next two-to-five years, the report says “more radical, structural options, such as dividing up the Met into national, specialist and London responsibilities, should be considered to ensure the service to Londoners is prioritised”.

"If they don’t change, I don’t think we should leave it forever," Casey told MPs. "If something can’t be changed, if it can’t be fixed, then reform it completely"

But she added that she hopes the current leadership of the Met can fix it, as going down the structural route would "let everyone off the hook again for the change that is needed".

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