MPs call for better vetting and training to restore trust in policing
MPs have called for a better vetting and training process to restore public trust in policing following a series of high-profile allegations of systemic misogyny within London’s force.
The House of Commons opened International Women’s Day with a Westminster Hall debate on the reports of misogyny and sexual harassment in the Metropolitan Police.
MPs from across the political spectrum called on the Government to do more to restore public trust, with Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney insisting the “lack of appropriately experienced or trained police officers has been a contributory factor in allowing negative behaviours to flourish unchecked”.
Shadow Home Office minister Sarah Jones urged ministers to look at how “we vet police officers” as she argued the process “is not good enough” to actually assess who a person is.
Conservative former equalities minister Maria Miller stressed the importance of “trying to deal with some of the root causes of the problem”, arguing “we have got to get sex and relationship education ingrained into our schools”.
Home Office minister Rachel Maclean recognised policing and the Metropolitan Police “must do better” but said the Government is “absolutely committed to raising the bar”.
Opening the debate, Ms Olney said the recent report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which exposed violently racist, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station in London, “reveals a number of factors that contributed to the toxic culture they identified”.
The MP for Richmond Park said: “These included that officers were often isolated, lacked supervision and that there was widespread acting up, with officers assuming unofficial promotions.
“This meant that inappropriate behaviours or attitudes were not properly challenged at the right time and so became normalised.
“This strongly suggests that the lack of appropriately experienced or trained police officers has been a contributory factor in allowing negative behaviours to flourish unchecked, which leads back to the dramatic cuts in policing in the capital that we’ve seen over the last decade.”
Ms Olney insisted “there’s a special responsibility on both lawmakers and law enforcers to ensure that they are upholding the law both in public and in private, and that when there is a visible breach, adequate action is taken to swiftly and effectively denounce the polluting behaviour and to restore public trust”.
On the issue of vetting, Ms Jones told MPs: “Vetting, I think, needs to be looked at… how we vet police officers. If you read the 250-page document around how we vet police officers, what they are vetted for is their propensity to be blackmailed.
“So, have you got problems with your finances? Have you got problems where you can be blackmailed? The vetting is not good enough on actually who you are, what you’ve said on social media over the last five years and what you think and whether you should be with vulnerable people. So our vetting needs to be looked at.”
On training, the shadow Home Office minister said it needs to be “overhauled”, adding: “Officers need ongoing training throughout their careers, including on anti-racism and including on tackling violence against women and girls.”
The Home Office minister said the findings in the IOPC report were “shocking”, adding: “Policing and the Met must do better. And we are absolutely committed to raising the bar.”
She went on: “As the public would expect, when officers are found to have committed gross misconduct and dismissed they cannot re-join policing.
“And we’re also ensuring that initial police recruitment vetting practices carried out in each force are rigorous and the assessment process addresses the candidate’s suitability for the role of police officer, including testing against core behaviours and values and when officers move force, they are then re-vetted.”
Ms Maclean concluded: “I can assure all colleagues that we are determined to use every measure at our disposal to tackle the issues that have been raised and to restore public confidence in policing.”