Casey review: Accepting the term ‘institutional’ could be the Met’s first step forward

BCU hosted a panel of experts for a virtual live discussion focused on the recent Casey Review

A panel of academic experts alongside prominent current and former senior Metropolitan Police figures have come together to discuss the recent review of the Met conducted by Baroness Louise Casey.

School of Social Sciences

Birmingham City University

The online event, hosted by Birmingham City University was made up of BCU academics Ron Winch and Jonathan Jackson, both Senior Teaching Fellows in Policing and Security, alongside Dr Laura Hammond, Associate Professor in Policing and Forensic Psychology at BCU.

They were joined by Hannah Wheeler, Chief Superintendent at the Metropolitan Police; Ron Lock, Detective Superintendent on secondment with the National Police Chief Council; and Rod Jarman, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police and current President of the London Policing College.

Panellists focused discussions on the changes Met and policing more widely should prioritise, how a new culture can be established by senior police leaders, reformation in recruitment and vetting process of officers and how listening to victims of racism, misogyny and homophobia more closely will be key in tackling the issues highlighted in the Casey Review.

Institutional or systemic?

Ron Lock, Detective Superintendent on secondment with the National Police Chief Council considered whether using the phrase ‘institutional’ was an effective way of tackling some of the issues raised in the Casey Review. 

“No one is saying all police officers are racist, I just hope as a black person and a police officer, I hope our future leaders address this issue, and perhaps one of the first steps in moving forward is indeed accepting the term ‘institutional’.”

Hannah Wheeler said: “The challenge of pushing back against the term ‘institutional’, is we have to be really practical, and that term brings an element of ambiguity, therefore we need to describe what the problem is, deal with it properly and change. It’s clear we have systemic issues that we need to tackle.”

Ron Winch added: “Whether we call it institutional racism, whether we call it systemic racism, the public will be looking at policing and thinking what’s the difference between the two?

“Policing has to wake up to the issues that it faces, and the true indictment is we have been talking about this for decades, particularly when look back to the points made on this topic in the Macpherson report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.”

A toxic culture

Addressing the apparent ‘toxic culture’ and public sentiment around Met and policing more widely is at the core of issues facing senior Met officers. Hannah Wheeler, Chief Superintendent at the Met believes its current leadership can turn the tide.

 “In Sir Mark Rowley (Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) and Dame Lynne Owens (Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) we have two very dedicated people who are certainly capable of bringing about the change needed,” said Chief Superintendent Wheeler.

Dr Laura Hammond added: “One of the interesting things about the Casey review and the subsequent discussions is the ideas around the vetting and recruitment processes, I do think ultimately it does come down to this when we talk about culture - and it was encouraging to me that this is one of the key areas noted in the Casey review.

“Speaking to victims about their experience, particularly when consider issues of violence against women and girls and using them as experts for change. Policing has always been historically very reactive in putting fires out; we need to think more long term about we can prevent those fires from starting.”

Rod Jarman said: “The Toxic culture we have now in policing is not the same as the toxic culture we had in policing 30 years ago, they are very different. What is the same however is the roots of the issues, be it racism, misogyny, homophobia and a failure of the police to deal effectively with these issues.”

Is change possible?

Comments made Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggest breaking up the 43 separate forces that make up the Met under a new name could bring substantial change. But Ron Winch, Senior Teaching Fellow in Policing and Security at BCU, believes a Royal Commission should be considered instead.

Hannah Wheeler said: “We can’t just rebrand the Met, changing the name won’t just make it different overnight.

“We need to involve, co-produce and consult, we need to go out to communities without a plan and say what do you want us to do? What do you want us to say? What aren’t we doing? And what are we doing that we could do better?”

Ron Lock argued that policing has not prioritised retention and progression.

“One the key things I feel needs attention in the review is the culture within specialist elite units, these units tend to have a lot of experience and knowledge and often the staff have used that as a commodity of power, and some of those people are not moved on which makes it hard to challenge or reform that culture,” he added.

The panel concluded the event with questions from an audience made up of fellow academics, students and police professionals from across England and Wales.  

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