A huge challenge for the head of the Met

Sir Bernard Hogan Howe Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

Two contrasting views have filled my Twitter stream in the last 24 hours.

One suggests that there is nothing remotely shocking about the review into police corruption and spying by the Met surrounding the Stephen Lawrence case - we all know the score.

The other view suggests that there is far too much being made of the activities of a very small handful of corrupt officers, and we must stress how the vast majority of the police service do an amazing job, day in and day out.

The shock of the review, for me, is that it suggests there was - and still is - a culture inside the Metropolitan Police which sees protecting the reputation of the Yard as more important than candour and transparency.

By way of example, the review says it was told only last month that certain material relating to the corrupt former detective John Davidson could not be found. "We have some reservations about accepting this assertion," the review states.

This is an elegant way of saying "we think the cops may still be lying".

The review also says "there must be serious concerns that further relevant material has not been revealed" by the Met. In other words, "we can't be sure that the police aren't still covering up evidence of corruption."

This is not some historical case concerning corruption by a small number of officers decades ago. This is about an organisation that a government-commissioned review still cannot trust to tell the whole truth.

So where was Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, yesterday? I am told he only received the review document yesterday morning and needed time to digest its contents.

That's why he sent one of his deputies out to dead-bat the media's questions. Today, Sir Bernard has told London's Evening Standard that yesterday was "one of the worst days that I have seen as a police officer".

He will be conducting a series of media interviews this afternoon, stressing his determination to restore trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police.

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[Sir Bernard] will need to work very hard to shift any impression that he is reluctant to expose the skeletons in Scotland Yard's cupboards”

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His problem, though, is that some see him as part of the problem, not the solution.

The review is clearly not persuaded that Sir Bernard is taking the issue seriously enough. Asked in 2012 for material relating to an anti-corruption investigation conducted in the 1990s - Operation Othona - it took police a year to find a cardboard box containing a hard drive with some details of it.

Only then did it also emerge that every single hard copy of the investigation's findings were destroyed in a "mass shredding" in 2003.

Last summer the review asked about information relating to another corruption investigation and was told the material had not been indexed. When they asked again last December, they were told the material had still not been indexed.

These are matters which fall on Sir Bernard's watch. He will need to work very hard to shift any impression that he is reluctant to expose the skeletons in Scotland Yard's cupboards.

Trust in the police is vital. We know there is a strong link between confidence in police and the likelihood that citizens will obey the law. At the moment, public satisfaction and trust remains stable - roughly two thirds of people still think officers tell the truth.

But this is a time of reckoning for Scotland Yard. Sir Bernard has a huge task ahead of him.

Mark Easton, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Clare @242
    "almost entire barrel"

    Complex & simple: not just police, not even almost all to same extent

    In shops & most of public service, safest to say (in a sense to know) 'the customer is always right'. That much harder for police etc, but like us they cope: oppressed by 'employers', but inspired by our families, colleagues & 'customers', innocent to worst, all with 'rights' worth defending.

  • Comment number 243.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    All are so sorry at the loss of a son, young Stephen. Lady D has reached the Lords summit. Now she has to deliver, but it has to be delivery for all citizens throughout the UK. This has not been simple racism but Endemic Corruption allowed to rot the almost entire barrel of Police Officers as apples, throughout the UK. She can be the new Florence Nightingale of the Police clean up.. Go Doreen Go !

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    WrekinAir @240
    "years to change attitudes"

    Only a second for Royal signature to enact slave liberation

    We could overnight end 'dehumanisation' of others, the unfairly 'excluded' (as if worthless), the insultingly 'rewarded' (as if incapable of all that is human: loyalty, friendship, honour, if necessary sacrifice for loved-ones, for all)

    Little credit in 'attitude change' only with generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    It takes years to change attitudes in a large organisation; this is why the Lawrence case still haunts the Met.

    Doreen Lawrence has behaved with great dignity, others around her calling for 'heads to roll' will only entrench defensive attitudes during this new inquiry. These supporters must calm down, work with the inquiry, not push its agenda towards specific outcomes rather than the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    "police force should"

    Fair cop! But you cannot 'successfully police' a world where some are given a uniform (& wherewithal to raise family & retire in dignity), while others are left to roam streets (in search of a job or place in parliament)

    Many are lucky, at least 'between wars', but hard for many to hold onto 'a life', even in high office at mercy of backing-money & mouthpiece-media

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    @197 Chubby. Nice generalisation of a statement there. Typical non-comment of someone who knows nothing of what the police do. You wake up without a police force tomorrow you'll be grumbling. And as for racist and corrupt the police have done more than any organisation to rid themselves of the few fools they have. Typical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Bring back Sir Robert Mark - " a police force should catch more criminals than it employs" !

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Sir Hugh Orde had ombudsmen in operations room

    There might indeed be wide confidence in Sir Hugh & in most police officers met by most people in time of need, but even such 'ordinary confidence' - needed by all of us in each other whatever our work - is put at risk by ongoing failure to address the social division that - even if variably - corrupts us all, and that puts some groups into hostility

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    There is revelation in Lawrence 'loss' of records. Even most corrupt leaders will sometimes make & retain records of their work in power, perhaps at first from misplaced pride, in contempt for both victims & wider opinion, perhaps at the end in fear of prosecution for crimes more extensive, even worse than those for which personally responsible. Loss means McPherson-missed corruption too awful?

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Police duty is to enforce law, to which end they may teach (in schools & the media) on our need for the rule of law and so for wide support of policing, all predicated on a trust that children and many adults will take for granted, sadly that is radically betrayed by ignorance of democracy or appeasement of rule by fear & greed, anyway by complicity in 'dehumanising' social inequality & corruption

  • Comment number 233.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Oaths/words are just sounds its our actions that count.
    As more people are put off from politics/police etc. more yes men fill the void, to the point where even blatant tyranny won't be challenged.

    A lot of good people just want to do a good job, but the situation calls for them to play the mind games required to survive in these offices & eventually take over and change the culture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I vividly remember 40+ years ago as a student being told "I can do you for anything I want any time I want to, so don't mess with me" (with multiple profanities) Nothing's changed. Many of our population know what it's like but aren't believed. As a magistrate said on the radio recently, one of the first things you learn as a new magistrate is that you don't take their word for anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    @227 Hamish Cameron

    A start in that direction, would be for the police to swear the oath of alegence to the people and not the queen.

    What I don't want to see is positive discrimination in police recruitment.
    Best person for the job gets the job regardless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    @228All for All
    Equal people of course!!

    Not so much social mobility but claiming back the offices that have managed to become totally unattractive to thinking/conscientious people - mainly because of top down abhorrent policies.

    The idea is to play stealth with stealth. For people to "appear" to be following those policies (so as not to lose their jobs) but following the conscience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Hamish Cameron @227
    "the challenge"

    Social Mobility? By encouragement or quotas or special inductions, to spread privilege and exclusion more evenly between identified groups?

    Such has been the mirage held up by 'the right' and the captive 'left', those clear-sighted (seeing need of all for equality) so far put-down by power

    "Loyalty to the people": the equal people or the hierarchy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    I cannot retain any respect for police - only fear and suspicion if I have the misfortune to interact with one.

    Then that's the challenge we have ahead of us. We need people who have been alienated, to JOIN these important institutions to make a difference.
    People who believe Police's first loyalty must be to the people rather than the institution (same for army & parliament etc.).

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    H Cameron @223
    on a corrupt system"

    Just as citizens of Chicago 'depended' on the mafia's protection?

    Unless we despair even of ourselves, the only half-rational basis for declaring dependence on fear & greed would be William Langland's medieval fear, in equal partnership, of any or 'too many' not pulling their weight. Reality is official DESIRE for 6.5% unemployment: 'incentivising'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    SB @222
    "I am a lawyer
    certain sections
    above due process"

    Truth & justice come late if ever in the court-room, milk long ago spilt, for criminal & victim, both born innocent with 'rights', both failed by society

    More remarkable than 'discoveries' of corruption & scandal (in media & academia, politics & church, healthcare & policing, business & forces) is the failure to 'see' & address THE cause


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