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Britain's Home Secretary Suella Braverman gives a statement on the Baroness Casey Review into the Metropolitan Police Service, in the House of Commons in London, on March 21. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and bereaved families on Tuesday led calls for 'top to bottom' reform of London's Metropolitan Police, after a review found the UK's largest crime-fighting force to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.ANDY BAILEY/AFP/Getty Images

The future of London’s Metropolitan Police Force has been thrown into question after a report found widespread bullying, discrimination, homophobia and misogyny, and concluded that unless the force was completely overhauled, it should be disbanded.

The 363-page report released on Tuesday by Louise Casey, the Baroness of Blackstock and a member of the House of Lords, outlined a raft of failings by the Met’s 47,000 officers and staff, ranging from broken freezers that spoiled evidence in sexual assault cases to a male-dominated culture that played down violence against women and refused to take the concerns of victims seriously.

“The Met has been losing its way and the worst aspects of its culture have impeded its ability to recognize this,” Lady Casey concluded.

The report noted that after its founding in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, the Met won accolades around the world for pursuing Peel’s philosophy of policing by consent, which sees public co-operation and police integrity create an environment where the use of force is minimized and officers do not need to carry guns.

“The Met can now no longer presume that it has the permission of the people of London to police them,” Lady Casey said. “The loss of this crucial principle of policing consent would be catastrophic. We must make sure it is not irreversible.”

She pointed out that public confidence in the Met to do a good job fell below 50 per cent for the first time in 2022, and that 51 per cent of women no longer felt the police could keep women and girls safe.

The problems at the Met run so deep, Lady Casey concluded, that a complete revamping of the force was necessary. If that didn’t happen, “more radical, structural options, such as dividing up the Met into national, specialist and London responsibilities, should be considered.”

The report was commissioned by the Met after the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of Sarah Everard in 2021 by a serving police officer. Last month, another Met officer was convicted of 50 criminal offences, including 24 sexual assaults, involving 12 women between 2003 and 2020.

“None of this should have happened,” Lady Casey wrote. “Enough was known about both men to have stopped them so much earlier.” She added that all police services need to do a better job vetting candidates because police work can “attract predators and bullies – those who want power over their fellow citizens, and to use those powers to cause harm and discriminate.”

Police Commissioner Mark Rowley called the findings upsetting and frustrating. “We have let Londoners down,” he told the BBC on Tuesday. “The findings are brutal and I think they are accurate.” He added that he would have to reflect on why he didn’t see the depth of the issues and promised to make sweeping reforms. “Month by month Londoners will see these issues dealt with. They will see policing improve and we will make the difference that people expect.”

Lady Casey’s report made it clear that his task won’t be easy.

She noted that the police force is dominated by a particular demographic – 82 per cent of Met officers are white and 71 per cent are males. And she said that at the current pace of recruitment, it will take 30 years to reach gender balance and nearly 40 years to reach 46 per cent Black, Asian and ethnic minority representation, which is reflective of London’s population.

The Met has also fostered a culture that turned a blind eye to abuse and had a “we know best” attitude, she added. Systematic bullying, racism and misogyny was dismissed as “banter,” and complaints from officers were rarely taken seriously.

The investigation heard reports of bags of urine being thrown at cars, dildos left in coffee mugs and humiliating initiation tests. Lady Casey also outlined several incidents where female officers suffered years of abuse and sexual assault by fellow officers, only to have their complaints ignored or treated with complacency by senior officers.

The report found that the Met had de-prioritized public protection, putting women and children at risk. One officer told Lady Casey: “If you look at our performance around rape, serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you may as well say it’s legal in London. It’s kind of reflective of how we treat and view our female colleagues. You get victim blaming, looking at a situation and not believing [them].”

Another officer spoke about her experience of working in a special sexual assault unit. The division was so under-resourced that crucial evidence, including blood and urine samples as well as underwear obtained from victims, was often stored in dilapidated refrigerators that were so full “it would take three officers to close them.” During one heat wave in 2022, the officer said one freezer broke down and all the evidence was lost and several cases had to be dropped.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he did not favour dismantling the Met. But he agreed with Lady Casey that some divisions that showed the greatest failings should be reconstituted. “This review simply must be a turning point and I expect all the recommendations to be implemented quickly and in full,” Mr. Khan said.