Met Police in waiting Met Police in waiting. Photo: Paul Townley / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.

Alia Butt argues that the Met police are the number one law and order problem in the capital

The idea that some lives are worth more than others has long been the source of many inequities around the world. In Britain, we have seen various examples of how inequality is exacerbated through the denial of institutional bigotry. One such example can be evidenced through the crisis within the London Metropolitan police force.

A recent report commissioned by the London Met demonstrated that it is institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic. It showed that the organisation is not only riddled with bigoted individuals but also with a culture within which these types of attitudes are accepted and can be acted upon with ease. This is obviously in contrast to many of the attitudes of ordinary Londoners, and to the make-up of the city itself, which has become increasingly cosmopolitan and diverse.

The continued existence of views which express widespread prejudice against black, female and LGBT people, who are supposed to receive some protection from the law, coming from within the police force is an indictment of the whole system. It is hardly surprising that we see far too many attacks on different groups where the attitudes of the perpetrators are not so far removed from the dangerous attitudes towards oppressed minorities which exist within our supposedly most trusted institutions. 

Racist attacks are unfortunately a commonplace in London, as are those on women, both in domestic settings and from strangers. We are also seeing more attacks on people from the trans community for example, highlighted by the recent attempt to burn down a flat in East London that has been identified as a transphobic hate crime. In many of these cases there are complaints or concerns that the police have done little to address or even sometimes to recognise the crime.


The case of serial killer Steven Port, who targeted gay men, and the likely homophobia behind the lack of interest in supporting those victims’ families, along with the many recent incidences of racist and misogynistic treatment of the public such as Biba Henry and Nicole Smallman, Child Q and the Metropolitan police officer named Britain’s most prolific sex offender, are disturbing for many of us. The insistence that the London Metropolitan is riddled with a number of bad apples is no longer sufficient and the report has made the insidious nature of bigotry within the force very clear.

The recent reopening of the case of Steven Port demonstrated the force’s lack of interest in supporting the families of victims the first time around. The Casey report showed that, had the police taken the first case more seriously, they would have potentially been able to prevent the following three murders. In terms of the investigation by the police into the murders, they were shown to have been unable to make links between them and it was only through the investigations led by the families themselves – as they did not feel heard or taken seriously by the force – that led to the killer’s arrest. The officers involved in the case had on some occasions failed to do the most basic of things, such as searching the pockets of the victims. Port was not identified as the killer in each of these cases until he had murdered his last victim. It is fair to assume through the evidence in the external report that this exceptional level of incompetence can be linked to the sexuality of Port’s victims.

After the highlighting of the dangerous misogynistic attitudes within the police force via the brutal rape and murder of Sarah Everard by an officer known as ‘the rapist’ to his colleagues in the force, the investigation into its processes was conducted by government official and policy expert Louise Casey. The Casey report found that the police force is harbouring some very incapable officers, and has also ‘allowed predatory behaviour to flourish within its force’. The report found that despite having information at hand, the police were unable to keep women (including women within the force) and other vulnerable minorities safe, due to a culture of denial in which ‘speaking up is not welcome’. Female officers were told that sexual abuse is part of the job and should be expected and officers exchanged racist, sexist and homophobic language.


One minority that the London Metropolitan police have managed to show clear support for in recent days is the monarchy. It released a statement in relation to the King’s coronation promising to ‘deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining this celebration’. Still, thousands did just that, and 62 were arrested for doing absolutely nothing, often before any events, or for peacefully standing with completely unrelated placards. For many of us, this acts as a reminder of the police’s raison d’etre.  The reason for which they were originally formed in the early 19th century was related to the protection of property and other ruling class interests, Much of the police’s conduct was consequently coloured by racism, misogyny, homophobia and all the many nuances of the division cultivated via the class system. The Casey report confirms what many of us have known all along, that institutional bigotry still lives within the police system today.

Scandals around the monarchy, the police as well as the government continue and demonstrate that none of these institutions are what they pretend to be. Working class people are expected to celebrate them as symbols of British values but also as protectors of the people they are supposedly serving. This is not only disingenuous, but also incredibly dangerous. The problem is not just unelected people in positions of power behaving with impunity but also that the undeniable culture of bigotry fostered through these institutions leaves oppressed minorities further vulnerable. If we continue to allow this type of institutional abuse, what is the message we are sending to the wider public? The longer we allow this culture of denial of the prejudices within our institutions, the worse they will get and the more we are put at risk of harm and abuse by those who are paid to protect us.

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