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‘Objective reality’ that Met is institutionally racist, says Louise Casey

The Casey report author doubled down on her findings at the launch of a Black-led police reform group

Anita Mureithi
20 July 2023, 3.27pm

Met commissioner Mark Rowley has been criticised for not accepting Louise Casey's findings that the force is 'institutionally racist, homophobic and misogynistic'


Carl de Souza - WPA Pool/Getty Image

The author of a damning report on the Metropolitan Police says the force can’t move on until it accepts her findings of institutional racism, homophobia and misogyny.

In an interview screened at the launch of Black-led scrutiny group the Alliance for Police Accountability (APA) in London, Louise Casey said: “I didn't pluck institutional racism out of the air in my report. I was very careful to be absolutely sure that that was right. And if I hadn't found it, I would say that.

“I went into the Met on the Sarah Everard murder. And I think they thought that I wouldn’t find so many issues around race but potentially some issues around homophobia and misogyny. And what became really clear... is that as an institution, it didn’t look to see what the connections were. I think that speaks to institutional failure.”

The Casey Review was commissioned after a litany of scandals in recent years including the murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens in March 2021, a series of rapes carried out by former Met officer David Carrick, and the strip search of a 15-year old Black schoolgirl wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis.

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Her findings echo the 1999 Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which also labelled the force institutionally racist.

Despite accepting the broad findings of the report, Met commissioner Mark Rowley has faced criticism for refusing to accept the word ‘institutional’ to describe the failures in his force.

“It’s not a label. I am describing what the evidence tells me, it’s a description... It’s the objective reality,” Casey stressed.

She added: “If you don’t accept that, then you can’t move on.”

Casey said she found it “sad” that it took a white person to give credence to a critique of the police that Black communities have had for decades, adding it “says something in itself”.

Holding police accountable

The APA has been set up by leading Black community groups and figures, and aims to “transform policing”, promote a new public health approach to serious violence and empower Black communities. It has vowed to create a national network of community-led police monitoring groups.

Also speaking at the launch at Lambeth Town Hall was Mina Smallman, whose life was upended in 2020 when her daughters Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, were murdered in a satanic ritual. Photos of the murder scene were then shared by police in a WhatsApp group.

Smallman told openDemocracy that trust in police was at rock bottom in Black communities.

“There is knife crime that isn't even reported now,” she said. “Black young boys, innocent young boys, innocent girls are being stabbed and shot. And people in the local community, they know who it is, but they are fearing for their lives. In order to work cooperatively with the police, you have to trust them. And we don’’t.”

For the former priest and teacher, the solution to the lack of public trust and confidence in policing is for people with lived experience of discriminatory policing to come together and “draw the map” for policing reform.

Ex-police superintendent and founding member of the Black Police Association, Leroy Logan told openDemocracy: “We’re seeing it’s tougher to convince people to work with police...

“Police have a bit of an irrelevance for certain communities, especially young people. And they think: ‘What’s the point of reporting crimes if they can’t keep me safe? I’m on the receiving end of heavy-handed policing – what can they do for me?’”

For Logan, the issue of trust and confidence has been spoken about by the Black community since the Windrush generation. “But they haven’t been heard for many decades. Until Macpherson, and now the Casey review. It’s like: ‘Welcome to my world.’

“Because of the experiences of women and girls, people from the LGBTIQ community and even people from the Islamic faith who have been suffering Islamophobia at the hands of police, more people are starting to get it.”

Logan, who spent over 30 years in the police force, said when it comes to reform, he does not believe the “police are capable of marking their own homework”.

“In a success-driven organisation, failure is not an option and they’re not going to be objective. You just can’t allow them to do it themselves,” he continued.

Smallman echoed this and said: “Because you have shown that you couldn’t organise yourselves, because you couldn’t get it when we told you, we – the educated, focused people of colour – are now going to put the map out for you. And we’re going to say: ‘This is what you need to do.’”

I think they feel ashamed

On Rowley’s refusal to accept that the Met is institutionally racist, homophobic and sexist, Smallman said: “​​I certainly don’t understand why he doesn’t understand why it’s so important. It’s not about semantics. If you speak to multiple generations of Black people, they will be able to give you concrete examples of institutional racism by the police. It’s not open for debate.”

The Met’s assistant commissioner Louisa Rolfe told attendees at the launch that while the force accepts the findings of Casey’s report, the refusal to use the word ‘institutional’ is “because it means so many different things to so many different people”.

Smallman said there is currently a lack of empathy and respect for Black people and ethnic minorities from officers. It’s an issue that became even clearer for her when her daughters were first reported missing, and in the horrific police conduct that followed.

“When they look at us, they think we're all potential criminals. That’s the reason why when my two girls went missing, two women of colour, they didn’t do their missing persons [report] – because they were women of colour. My gorgeous Nikki's [partner] Adam and his parents had to find them. And even at that point, the police were not even on their way.”

Smallman believes there is now “nowhere for police to hide”. She added: “I think they feel ashamed. And I think it has put pressure on them to turn things around.”

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