The police watchdog has condemned Scotland Yard officers for a range of bad behaviour, including racism, misogyny, harassment and offensive social media messages.
An investigation was launched after a complaint that an officer had sex with a drunk person in a police station, but it later uncovered much more.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct appealed for more evidence and other Metropolitan Police officers came forward with evidence of colleagues involved in bullying, violence towards women, perverting the course of justice and using discriminatory language.
WARNING – This article contains offensive language
The investigation centred largely on Charing Cross police station near Trafalgar Square in central London and led eventually to one officer being sacked and others being disciplined.
The watchdog’s findings included:
• Police officers exchanged highly offensive racist, sexist and homophobic messages with claims that it was “banter” becoming a cover for bullying and harassment
• Messages about police officers attending a festival dressed as known sex offenders and a molested child were sent within a WhatsApp group containing 17 police officers
• Details of messages from WhatsApp groups and a Facebook chat group referring to rape including “I would happily rape you” and “if I was single I would happily chloroform you”
• One police officer was referred to as “mcrapey raperson” in a WhatsApp exchange. When officers on his team were asked to provide an explanation for this nickname, one explanation given was that there were rumours about him bringing a woman back to the police station to have sex with
• Evidence of racism including a number of messages with references to African children, Somali people and Auschwitz
• Homophobic language used by officers including one entry that said “f*** you bender”
• Use of derogatory terms about people with disabilities
• WhatsApp messages about domestic violence, plus sexually explicit, misogynistic and demeaning conversations
• Female officers who challenged sexual harassment were told it was part of police culture, that they should accept, “play the game or stay quiet”, or leave
• Police officers on probation were intimidated and threats made to cut their hair and belongings
Dismissed as ‘banter’
The IOPC’s regional director Sal Naseem said: “The behaviour we uncovered was disgraceful and fell well below the standards expected of the officers involved.
“While these officers predominantly worked in teams in Westminster, which have since been disbanded, we know from other recent cases that these issues are not isolated or historic.”
Investigators reviewed thousands of messages exchanged by officers, many of which it described as highly sexualised, discriminatory or referring to violence. When questioned, officers dismissed the messaging as banter.
Mr Naseem said: “Our investigation showed the officers’ use of ‘banter’ became a cover for bullying and harassment. Colleagues were afraid to speak out about these behaviours for fear of being ostracised, demeaned or told to get another job.
“We are grateful to those officers who were brave enough to speak to us about the cultural issues that existed within these teams, realising that in doing so they risked further bullying. This took courage.
“Hopefully our learning report and recommendations will give officers the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that people are listening and that changes will be made.”
‘I read their messages with disgust and shame’
Of 14 officers investigated, two were fired for gross misconduct and put on a barred list to stop them ever working again for the police. Two officers resigned and two others were disciplined.
The Metropolitan Police apologised and said the officers’ conduct did not represent the values of the force. It acknowledged it would have damaged trust and confidence in the Met.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bas Javid said: “I am angry and disappointed to see officers involved in sharing sexist, racist and discriminatory messages. It’s clear we have a lot of work to do to ensure bullying and discrimination does not exist in any part of the Met.”
Commenting on the watchdog’s findings, Priti Patel said: “Being a police officer is a privilege which has been abused by these sickening officers.”
The Home Secretary said she expected the force and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to implement the report’s recommendations “as soon as practically possible”.
‘Damage public trust in the police’
The IOPC made 15 recommendations to “seek to tackle underlying cultural issues” and urged the Met to “publicly commit to being an anti-racist organisation with a zero-tolerance policy towards sexism, misogyny, bullying and harassment”.
Mr Khan said: “I am utterly disgusted by the behaviour outlined in this IOPC report, which details the shocking evidence of discrimination, misogyny, harassment and bullying by police officers. The conduct of these officers was totally unacceptable and what has been revealed by these investigations will only further damage public trust and confidence in the police.”
In the wake of the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving PC Wayne Couzens last year, Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick ordered an independent review of her force’s culture and standards by Baroness Louise Casey.
Later, Home Secretary Priti Patel set up a non-statutory inquiry into police failings in the case which is being chaired by Scotland’s former top prosecutor Dame Elish Angiolini.