Former Met officer wants ‘toxic culture of sexism' to be exposed by review
A toxic “lads culture” exists in Britain’s biggest police force and the job is attractive to bullies chasing power, a former Met officer has said.
Alice Vinten, who served with the force for 10 years, believes the police service can only change if bosses admit it attracts more “wrong-uns” than other professions.
A damning report is expected this week to accuse the Metropolitan Police of racism, sexism and homophobia, and failure to change despite repeated warnings to do so.
Baroness Casey is due to publish her review of the culture and standards in the force, commissioned in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer.
Ms Vinten said that while the focus has been on the Met, she believes the same problems exist throughout the entire police service.
“I hope that the toxic culture of sexism within the Met will be exposed for the reality it is, the fact that ‘lads culture’ still exists,” she told the PA news agency.
“That women often don’t feel supported by their male colleagues, especially when they do have to make a complaint about a male colleague, men do not often stand behind them.
“The reality is that there is still a stigma attached to reporting ‘one of your own’ and this needs to be turned on its head – officers should be praised for reporting dangerous or corrupt officers, not ostracised for it.
“I don’t think these issues are specific to the Met at all, I think these things are happening in every force across the UK.
“The focus has been mainly on the Met since the murder of Sarah Everard, however if we gave each UK police service the same level of scrutiny we would find exactly the same issues – sexist jokes, unacceptable WhatsApp discussions, harassment of female officers and men using their power to access vulnerable women.”
The police constable turned author wants to see measures including a unit of female detectives to investigate allegations of sexual offences made by women officers and staff, and a system where two people separately vet job candidates.
She said the force also needs to accept that policing attracts power-hungry bullies.
“They need to admit that power attracts bullies and perpetrators, and that the police service as a whole attracts more ‘wrong-uns’ than other occupations,” Ms Vinten said.
“They need to admit that they are a profession that is targeted by bad people, who want to abuse their power.
“Until they do this, and dedicate enthusiastic officers/civil staff to rooting out the bad cops, nothing will change.”
Solicitor Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, says officers who turn a blind eye to wrongdoing must be punished as well as the perpetrators themselves.
She told PA: “It is clear from everything we have seen over the past few years that the Met has allowed a culture of misogyny, racism and homophobia to fester within the organisation unchallenged.
“The failure to tackle these problems and sweeping them under the carpet has led to the most horrific outcomes in cases like (Wayne) Couzens and (David) Carrick which fundamentally undermine trust in policing.
“One of the key issues I think is the culture of loyalty which punishes those that whistleblow and rewards those that collude – this must be fundamentally reformed.
“Those that collude or fail to call out and challenge overt misogyny and racism should be held accountable as well as the perpetrators.”
Amid reports in the Guardian that Baroness Casey’s review will be “atrocious” for the Met, the force has said it will not comment until it is published in full.
The Met has lurched between a series of scandals in recent years, including the case of Wayne Couzens, the serving officer who will die in jail for Miss Everard’s murder, and David Carrick, who was unmasked as one of the UK’s most prolific sex offenders.
Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said she hopes the review will look at how police powers and culture enable officers and staff to commit crimes involving violence against women and girls.
“Given the long history of misogyny and racism in the Met, from revelations about undercover policing stretching back to the 1980s to the findings of the Macpherson report, and numerous police inspectorate reports, we’re keen to see this review finally drive home that the culture and operation of the institution has to change, and urgently,” she said.
“The findings of the report will likely point to issues we have long known about, so we expect to hear in concrete terms how can it push forward action that will result in meaningful transformation.”
Chief executive of Rape Crisis England and Wales, Jayne Butler, hopes the review will focus on “transparency, accountability and culture change”.
She said: “There is clearly a need for a radical cultural transformation to rebuild public trust in policing.
“We want a zero-tolerance approach to officers who have allegations against them for sexual or domestic abuse offences, and proper vetting processes to root out those who hold sexist, racist and misogynistic views.
“It’s crucial that the Met can clearly outline a definition of gross misconduct and that this is consistently applied.
“It’s also crucial to detail how professional standards are made more robust, and how these will be enforced and developed where necessary.”