The Met Police's institutional racism is beyond reform

The Met Police's institutional racism is beyond reform
With the National Black Police Association's call for a boycott, the Met Police is facing an unprecedented crisis of public trust, writes Richard Sudan.
5 min read
28 Feb, 2024
The call by the National Black Police Association to boycott the Met Police is the first in over two decades. [Getty]

It’s clear that the Metropolitan Police have some serious institutional problems. Scandals involving officers emerge virtually by the day.

One of the most recent, the Casey Review, concluded in 2023, found that the Met Police was unfit to govern the people it exists to serve and is institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

The report was launched following the horrific murder of Sarah Everard in 2021 by serving officer Wayne Couzens, who abused his position as a police officer to carry out the attack.

In London, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, long-standing endemic racism has played a major part in creating deep levels of distrust. A 2023 poll found that 51% of Londoners do not trust the Met police. A survey from The Voice Newspaper last year found that close to 90% black respondents said they did not trust the criminal justice system.

"Focusing on 'integration' and 'reform' has clearly failed miserably to tackle the deep-rooted racism built into the very fabric of the Met Police"

Currently Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has however refused to even describe the force as institutionally racist, despite the overwhelming evidence.

In London, black people in particular are consistently stopped and searched by the police in disproportionately high numbers despite being no more likely to commit crime.

Today, the Met Police is undoubtedly in an absolute crisis, perhaps facing the biggest existential threat in its history. Despite pouring millions into recruitment, just six officers signed up to join, a historic and unprecedented low.

Earlier this month, the National Black Police Association (NBPA) called for people from black and ethnic minority communities to boycott joining the force for the first time in 20 years.

The last time a boycott was called was in 2003, when former Met Commander Ali Dizaei was suspended over misconduct allegations. Dizaei was later jailed in 2012, for perverting the course of justice.

Despite Dizaei’s conviction, the Casey Review noted that Black officers are 81% more likely to face misconduct allegations, and that “allegations against officers and staff of colour might follow when they raise their head above the parapet to call out poor behaviour.”

Perhaps even more alarming than the call to boycott is the assertion by NBPA chief Andy George that he believed the Met Police lacked the ability to reform.

George made the statement following the news that Met Black Police Association (Met BPA) chair Charles Ehikioya, has been subjected to a misconduct hearing after reporting alleged racist abuse experienced by his own Black officers.

Critics say that Ehikioya is now being deliberately targeted, and efforts are being made to find evidence against him to discredit the alarming claims he made. Former Met BPA chair Leroy Logan MBE has said he himself was also targeted while in the role and that the developments do not surprise him.

This latest scandal compounds the scrutiny and intense criticism facing the Met. Still, under the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act, the group will see its powers and funding expanded.


The law was passed in 2022, under the Conservative government following large Black Lives Matter and environmental protests that swept the country.

Since then, the Met Police remain accused by some of over-policing certain protests, including anti-monarchy marches, and in particular pro-Palestinian demonstrators.  Many or most of those protestors are non-white and are treated with a bias not shown towards Israel supporters.

In December last year, approximately two months after Israel began its bombing campaign of Gaza, a group of human rights lawyers wrote to Metropolitan Commissioner Mark Rowley, highlighting the Met’s policing of almost weekly protests in the capital.

They argued that police have been excessively heavy handed towards pro-Palestinian participants while being overly indulgent to pro-Zionist demonstrators who were potentially breaking the law. For the past four months, sections of the media have conflated largely peaceful Palestinian demonstrations with violence playing into the hands of political opportunists.

"The argument for many years was that there were 'a few bad apples' in the Met Police. Increasingly, it looks like much of the basket is rotten"

In this landscape,with the ongoing racial profiling and surveillance of black and ethnic minority communities, the Met Police has become a symbol of institutional racism.

Focusing on ‘integration’ and ‘reform’ has clearly failed miserably to tackle the deep-rooted racism built into the very fabric of the Met Police, which has its foundations in quelling anti-colonial struggles in places like Ireland.

So too has focusing on political parties - while the Conservatives’ track record of railing to tackle systemic racism in the UK is clear to see, the Labour Party hasn’t been much better.

In its shambolic Race Equality Act plan launch, Labour claimed that they, “will ensure police officers and staff undertake mandatory anti-racism training.”

But this deluded thinking - that ‘training’ is enough to tackle systemic racism in policing - is hardly a plan. It’s weak window dressing. Racism cannot be ‘trained’ or ‘reformed’. 

Our country is failing miserably at rooting out racist policing. And that’s because the political will simply isn’t there.

The argument for many years was that there were “a few bad apples” in the Met Police. Increasingly, it looks like much of the basket is rotten.

Calls to defund or even abolish the Met were once dismissed as left-wing slogans. But now that Black officers themselves have lost confidence in the Met and its commissioner, is there any hope left for reform?

Many people are seriously doubting it.

Richard Sudan is a journalist and writer specialising in anti-racism and has reported on various human rights issues from around the world. His writing has been published by The Guardian, Independent, The Voice and many others.

Follow him on Twitter: @richardsudan

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.