Content warning: this article discusses offensive statements made by police officers including sexually violent statements.
Yet more incidents of misogyny and racism in the Metropolitan Police have emerged this week, adding another chapter to the shameful history of this police force.
An IOPC report has revealed that racist and sexist comments were routinely exchanged in WhatsApp and Facebook groups of Met officers, including threats to rape women and assault their partners. One officer was referred to as “Rapey McRaperson” because he “harassed” women – in light of the conviction of PC Wayne Couzens for murdering Sarah Everard after complaints about his behaviour were ignored, this is particularly concerning.
Another officer bragged about beating his partner: “I backhanded her … It makes them love you more. Seriously since I did that she won’t leave me alone … Knock a bird about and she will love you.” A further officer told a female colleague he “would happily rape [her]”.
Racism and Misogyny
The officers did not limit their violent hatred to women – racist comments were also common. One officer boasted that he “battered” a “Somalian rat”.
Officers who were apparently uncomfortable with this behaviour were ostracised and even threatened with violence if they raised concerns about their colleagues: one officer commented “there’s a few of those grassing c*nts I’d like to knife”.
Just last week the Met was forced to apologise and pay compensation to Dr Koshka Duff after officers made misogynistic and demeaning comments about her during a strip search. Dr Duff was found not guilty of all charges over the incident leading to the strip search, in which she handed a legal advice card to a child who was being searched – further demonstrating that this was not just about disgusting and sexist comments, but stemmed from an egregious abuse of police powers. The officer who ordered the search was cleared by a disciplinary panel after less than two days.
The IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) report into the WhatsApp and Facebook groups correctly states that “these incidents are not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few ‘bad apples’”. The conviction of Wayne Couzens for murder, 666 allegations of intimate partner violence against police staff between 2015 and 2018 (of which just 3.9% ended in a conviction), officers taking selfies with the bodies of murder victims Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry and many more incidents demonstrate this.
However, despite its name this “Independent” body is no such thing. As of March 2020 23% of IOPC staff have previously worked for the police in some capacity – this increases to almost 30% at senior level. The IOPC has abjectly failed to “police the police”. Their report notes that despite three groups being investigated, with 17, 19 and 4 officers in respectively, just 14 officers were investigated and only 8 faced any consequences – many of these consequences are listed as unspecified “management action”, which could be as little as a manager giving informal words of advice. Two officers who were found to have failed to report or challenge “bullying, sexual harassment and harassment of a female officer” faced no further action.
This is clearly unacceptable. The IOPC’s claim of independence from the police is undermined by its employment of many former officers and by its lack of results. 1803 people have died after police contact since 1990 – not including those who die by suicide after suffering violence or harassment from police officers – and yet only one officer has been successfully prosecuted in connection with any of these deaths.
The recommendations by the IOPC, while damning of the Met, do not come close to fixing the problems – and they don’t do anything to address issues in other police forces. Three of its non-binding recommendations are limited to asking the Met to “review and ensure the adequacy of its current training and guidance” on social media, bullying and harassment, and reporting misconduct. Another focuses not on the disgraceful behaviour by officers, but on their well-being: “ensure appropriate supervision and welfare is in place to prevent officers becoming isolated” while working night shifts! Workers around the world work night shifts and long hours, usually for far less money than police officers, and they don’t cope with it by sending rape threats to their colleagues – isolation is not an excuse for this conduct.
IOPC recommendations not enough
The IOPC asking politely that the police start to behave themselves is not enough. A genuinely independent body should be set up to enforce community control over the police, with workers’, women’s and Black organisations at the forefront. All riot police units, Special Branch and undercover units that are used to spy on activist groups should be disbanded immediately.
The misogyny and racism seen in these messages are not a one-off: they are key parts of the role played by police. Their role is not primarily to protect people but to uphold and enforce the will of the capitalist state. We need bodies run by workers to protect workers.
To fight for the complete overhaul of the policing and justice system, we need a united movement of the working class to fight for the end of the capitalist system that enables and encourages them, and for a socialist world.
Photo Ted Eytan, CC