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‘Nothing off the table’ with efforts to improve Met Police, says Khan

Abolishing the force entirely is still an option if current plans to reform the Met’s culture fail, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan with police officers (credit GLA)
Sadiq Khan with police officers (credit GLA)

Sadiq Khan has refused to rule out breaking up the Met Police if current efforts to reform it fail.

The London mayor said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to improving the force’s culture, as he announced the details of a new London Policing Board to further hold the organisation to account.

The board’s creation was a key recommendation made by Baroness Casey in her review of the Met earlier this year, which found it to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

Asked by Times Radio whether breaking the force up would still be considered as a “last resort” option, he said: “I think, just to paraphrase Dame Louise Casey, who I agree with […] we need to try and see if this works. And if it doesn’t work, I think nothing is off the table.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said of the new board: “We’ve managed to have a group of experts from a wide range of areas, leading in their respective fields – whether it’s in relation to how you change an organisation, local authority, whether it’s representing the community, tackling violence against women and girls, and so forth.

“This outside expertise will be really important in ensuring we bring about the long lasting cultural and systematic change in the police service that Londoners so desperately want and need.”

The board’s members include author and educator Stuart Lawrence – the younger brother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – and Neil Basu, the Met’s former assistant commissioner for specialist operations.

Chaired by Khan, the board will meet in public and on a quarterly basis.

Concerns have been raised within City Hall about whether the board will diminish the role of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee (PCC) – an elected, cross-party body which has traditionally held the Met to account.

At a recent PCC meeting, Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he “questions” how often he will be able to attend future sessions, if his time is occupied by the new board.

It prompted the PCC’s chair, Green member Caroline Russell, to say that she and her colleagues believe having “elected accountability” is “very important” in scrutinising the police.

The mayor insisted on Friday (22nd) that the committee would still play a critical role. “I think there’s a role for both,” he said.

“There’s a role for the [parliamentary] home affairs select committee. There’s a role for the PCC. There’s a role for the commissioner, rightly, doing media and being held to account; the commissioner doing community meetings, as he’s been doing, to listen to concerns, to engage and to respond.

“Similarly, for there to be a policing board, made up of experts in their respective fields, supporting me in both supporting the commissioner, but also challenging the commissioner and the Met Police leadership team.”

Susan Hall, Khan’s Tory mayoral opponent, has accused the mayor of having “nobbled the policing board, adding in some of his Labour activist friends and excluding anyone who might cause him problems”.

She said that the final appointments to the board should have been made by an independent panel, rather than Khan. The Labour mayor in turn accused the Conservatives of being “afraid of expertise”.

He said: “I’m the person who has various rights and responsibilities under statute, in relation to policing, but I’m [also] the one leading the charge of reforming the police service.

“The Conservatives have been opposed every step of the way in relation to me holding the police to account…

“Londoners know that I am passionate about this issue, it’s a critical part of my mayoralty.

“The Conservatives may be against change, the Conservatives may be happy with the status quo […] I’m not.”