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Breaking up Met not “off the table” if no progress is made, London Mayor says

Breaking up the Metropolitan Police was still a possibility if it did not overhaul its toxic culture, Sadiq Khan said on Friday.

The mayor of London has announced measures to improve standards and restore trust in Britain’s biggest police force after it was labelled institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic in a review in March.

Sir Mark Rowley, the Met commissioner, is overseeing the biggest cull in decades after scandals including the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by PC Wayne Couzens, a firearms officer.

The force revealed this week that up to 60 officers a month would face the sack as it tried to root out predatory officers and those who did not meet standards. Baroness Casey of Blackstock issued an excoriating review of the Met in March and said Rowley faced a task that was like “climbing Everest in flip-flops” because of its scale and the level of denial in the organisation.

She left open the possibility of breaking up the Met if it could not bring about change but said that an attempt at speedy reform was important first.

Khan announced this week the members of his new London Policing Board to oversee and scrutinise reform of the Met. They include Neil Basu, the former assistant commissioner who led the counterterrorism command, and Stuart Lawrence, an author and activist whose older brother, Stephen, was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.

Khan told Times Radio on Friday that the board would help the Met “get its act together” but said that a break-up could still be considered if all else failed.

He said he agreed with Casey. “We need to try and see if this works,” he added. “And if it doesn’t work, I think nothing is off the table.” He pointed out, however, that Rowley had correctly said it would take two or three years to turn things around and it was impossible to overturn a culture “overnight”.

“You know, I want a critical part of my mayoralty to be about the reform of the police service,” Khan said. “It’s incredibly important. The way we have always done stuff isn’t working. And that’s what the police board is seeking to address as well.”

A City Hall source said: “Both Sadiq and the commissioner have been clear they are determined to see real and meaningful change within the Met over the next few years.

“Sadiq is absolutely committed to the best way forward being a reformed Met. There is already clear and positive evidence of a big shift happening — with a thousand officers under investigation and the new policing board in place with a genuinely independent and robust membership including Neil Basu, Stuart Lawrence and others.

“But there is still a lot more to do and the mayor will continue to hold the Met to account on delivering the real changes Londoners urgently need.”

Khan does not have the power to dismantle the Met and any decision would be for the government.

Rowley has previously said that he wanted to focus on reforming the organisation and that breaking it up would be a distraction. He has warned that dismantling the force would be expensive, bureaucratic and risk delaying reform.

A Home Office source said: “The mayor should worry about getting on with his job and not things he has no control over or power to do.”

Stuart Cundy, the deputy assistant commissioner in charge of professionalism, said this week that 100 police officers had been sacked for gross misconduct over the past year, an increase of two thirds on the usual rate of dismissals. Cundy said 201 officers were suspended and 860 were on restricted duties. About 1,600 officers are being investigated after a review of complaints for alleged domestic violence or sexual abuse in the past decade.

Cundy added that some of the most “abhorrent cases” he had ever seen were yet to emerge.

(Source: The Times)

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