Unsurprisingly the latest set of revelations about the Met’s conduct and failures during its investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder have further damaged the force’s standing and reputation and, inevitably, the public’s trust in the force.
In the past few days there have been calls for tough action, reform and even wholesale abolition of the force.
And people have asked how it’s possible for the Met to have been so awful for so long without those in a position of responsibility bothering to take action.
I think the answer to this can be found in the lack of meaningful democratic oversight enjoyed by the force prior to the the inaugural City Hall elections in 2000 which brought with them the creation of the Metropolitan Police Authority.
Until the MPA came into existence the force answered only to the Home Secretary and of the 12 Home Secretaries between 1970 and 2000, just three held a London seat during their stewardship of the Met.
Given that the Met’s political leadership lacked any meaningful insight into the views and concerns of Londoners, it is any surprise that the force itself developed a culture of not listening and came to be seen as remote and out of touch?
Although the force still answered in part to the Home Secretary even after 2000, the arrival of the MPA meant that Londoners’ concerns were no longer something senior officers could get away with merely paying lip service to.
Decades of neglect and mismanagement could never be reversed in the MPA’s 12 years of existence but, as former MPA chair Lord Toby Harris has previously written, authority members rightly take pride in securing a number of important achievements which brought Londoners and their police closer together.
Many of us were concerned that the MPA’s abolition and replacement with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime would lead to less scrutiny, less accountability and less challenging of the Met.
But with the benefit of two year’s experience of the new arrangements I believe we were wrong.
The London’s Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee has become a powerful voice in the capital’s policing – robustly challenging Met officers, the Mayor and his policing Deputy.
And the Mayor in turn has set goals for the Met, requiring that they start to look more like Londoners, get out and about more often, boost public confidence and patrol individually so that they’re more approachable and create a less daunting impression.
But trying to reform a body the size of the Met can only ever work if the organisation itself wants to change.
In the current leadership of Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and his deputy, Craig Mackey, the Mayor and Assembly Members have willing allies in their desire to finally ensure Londoners and the Met enjoy a harmonious and mutually respectful relationship.
From the moment they arrived at Scotland Yard it was clear that the pair not only understood politicians and Londoners’ desire for change in how the Met deals with the public, but shared it.
One of the earliest commitments Sir Bernard made was to tackle the overuse – some would say misuse – of Stop and Search by moving away from random stops in favour of a targeted, intelligence-led approach.
Hogan-Howe was scathing about the Met’s historic low level of arrests stemming from Stops, citing them as proof that the wrong people were being stopped.
And Mackey has spoken about encountering people still so angry about their experience decades after being stopped that their respect or trust in the police has never recovered.
Both men have told Assembly Members that officers who carry out stops should expect to be able to justify their decision to use the powers.
And while this has been deeply unpopular – my Twitter feed fills with indignant officers every time the issue comes up – there’s been both a cut in the number of Stops being carried out and an increase in the numbers being arrested.
Hogan-Howe’s approach is paying off and Londoners are being better policed as a result.
But, as Assembly Members warned earlier this year, there’s still more to be done.
And the fact that large numbers of officers don’t believe the public gets a good service proves there’s no room for complacency.
One of the most important reforms in improving London’s policing is still to come – increasing the number of officers who themselves come from, and live in, the city.
Both politicians and Scotland Yard now accept that shipping in half of all cops from areas which are very different to the diverse, densely populated capital impedes their ability to police in a way which earns public confidence and support.
And the use of body cameras, currently being piloted, will ensure Londoners have confidence that they’ll be treated properly by officers as well as providing the police with evidence of wrongdoing to help secure faster convictions.
I believe these reforms, and the current responsive leadership and strong democratic oversight the Met now operates under, provide the essential building blocks to improve the way London is policed.
But sadly more historic scandals and skeletons will likely burst forth from the Met’s closets and we need to consider as a city the best way of dealing with them.
Do we look to the Mayor to expand his ethics panel to provide an impartial assessment of past failings as and when they emerge? Or perhaps that’s a role the Assembly should be empowered to carry out?
And how do we best hold to account former Commissioners for failings under their watch? Do we seek to strip away honours, peerages and pensions in recognition that their leadership was less than Londoners were entitled to?
Whatever we decide upon, it has to be more meaningful than the tried and tested practice of chucking out senior officers – often who’ve joined the force since the events in question took place – merely to ensure something is seen to be done.