Exclusive: Figure of officers restricted from public-facing roles has doubled as force faces deep-rooted problems
More than 150 police officers from the UK’s biggest force are being prevented from holding public-facing roles because they are under investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct or racism.
The figure – released by the Metropolitan police to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act – represents a doubling of the numbers as the force faces unprecedented pressure to tackle such deep-rooted problems.
The Met has been beset by a string of scandals that have eroded women’s trust in the force, such as the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, Wayne Couzens, in March 2021. Months later, two other officers were jailed for taking and sharing photos of murdered sisters.
Scotland Yard said the number of restrictions and suspensions of officers had gone up after “concerted efforts” to encourage employees to recognise and report wrongdoing, as well as other factors such as mandatory training that makes it a duty to report misconduct.
However, activists campaigning to root out misogyny in the police and highlight the dangers faced by women on London’s streets said little had changed, and it was still “extraordinary that we’re expected to pay to keep misogynists and racists on the Met police payroll”.
The Met revealed the number of officers on restricted duties at the end of November arising from allegations of sexual misconduct stood at 118. The number for allegations of racism was 43.
The figures released by Scotland Yard also show results were awaited in the case of investigations under way into more than 230 officers over sexual assault allegations alone. Results were awaited arising from probes launched into allegations of racism against 556 officers.
A spokesperson for the Met said: “Following concerted efforts to encourage employees to recognise and report wrongdoing, mandatory training that makes it a duty to report misconduct, boosting officer numbers in the directorate of professional standards, and listening to the public’s views about their expectations of suspension, we’ve seen restrictions and suspensions of officers almost double.
“Our work continues at pace to identify those who let down the public and police, and deal with them as swiftly as possible.”
The new Met commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, spoke last November of how some officers were working under “very restrictive” conditions because “frankly we don’t trust them to talk to members of the public”.
“It’s completely mad that I have to employ people like that as police officers that you can’t trust to have contact with the public,” he told BBC Radio 4 at the time.
A spokesperson of Reclaim These Streets (RTS), a collective that was among groups that came together to organise a vigil after Sarah Everard’s murder, said: “It’s extraordinary that we’re expected to pay to keep misogynists and racists on the Met police payroll.
“It’s right that they’re suspended: women deserve to know that the person we ask for help in an emergency isn’t a predator themselves. But we have to ask how they passed vetting to be hired in the first place, how long their prejudice was allowed to fester in the Met’s ranks, and how many others like them remain in post.”
RTS said it was still waiting for Rowley to announce radical changes to recruitment, vetting, training or processes needed to stamp out discrimination in the Met, adding they felt “so let down that so little has changed”.
Concern about racism in the force has been compounded by incidents such as the conduct of some officers at Charing Cross police station after the police watchdog uncovered racist, sexist and homophobic text messages last year.
Months later, two officers were sentenced to three months in prison after being found guilty of sharing similar messages in a WhatsApp group with Couzens.
Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat who sits on police and crime committee of the London Assembly, said: “It is a depressing fact that so many officers are on restricted duties with such serious allegations. I am glad that the new Met commissioner is taking this seriously.
“No police service has room for officers with offensive views and behaviour. The sooner such officers are rooted out the better, and investment in quality supervision and police with the right ethics. This is needed if the public is to have trust again in the police.”
A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: “The mayor supports the action being taken by the commissioner to rid the Met of all officers who are clearly unfit to serve.”
Khan encouraged the public to report any wrongdoing by the Met through its new anonymous anti-corruption and abuse hotline.
… we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.
We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This means more people can be better informed, united, and inspired to take meaningful action.
In these perilous times, a truth-seeking global news organisation like the Guardian is essential. We have no shareholders or billionaire owner, meaning our journalism is free from commercial and political influence – this makes us different. When it’s never been more important, our independence allows us to fearlessly investigate, challenge and expose those in power. Support the Guardian from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.