When I started this job I promised to save money, cut crime and change the culture of the Met. I haven’t finished but I have made some progress. We’ve cut £600m from our spending — not by retreating but by finding more cost effective ways of policing– and cutting crime as we’ve done this. That has meant looking to business — for inspiration and partnership. However, it is my third promise that is perhaps the hardest to grapple with. Changing the culture of 50,000 people doesn’t happen overnight and has to happen at an individual level 50,000 times.
We started out by trying to figure out what the Met police stood for. We spoke to our staff, to stakeholders, to businesses and finally arrived at four values that we try to live by: Professionalism, Integrity, Courage and Compassion. More than just words, more than a tagline underneath a corporate logo. We’ve worked hard to ensure that this is how we behave in all the things we do, that our policies and decisions demonstrate these four ideals consistently.
Internal awards recognise and reward those who go the extra mile to show our values at work and our professional standards department ensures those who fail to meet the standards are properly held to account. Granted, it’s not easy to have compassion for the man spitting in your face when you arrest him, but you must remain professional and have compassion for his victim.
It’s because of these values that people value us. We know business values us because it is the safety and rule of law that we help provide that allows London to prosper. We are trusted to be professional and act with integrity. The public also trust us, despite what you may occasionally read.
We are one of only a handful of capital city forces that fight crime, for the most part, unarmed. We can only do that because we police by consent. Because, as Robert Peel famously said, “The police are the public and the public are the police”.
But it’s no good just saying all that and sitting back. Undoubtedly there are groups where trust is not as strong, where we have been failing to demonstrate our values and in turn are not as valued as we would like.
So how will we change this? First of all by having the integrity and courage to admit when we get things wrong and the professionalism to change. For example; we realised we were doing too much stop and search and it was impacting on London’s black community more than any other — damaging trust. We have cut it by more than half.
Of course I don’t expect that to solve trust issues on its own, but it is a start and I am looking for other ways — such as making rolling-out body-worn video to all front-line officers as a priority — we know it improves confidence and the quality of our interactions with the public.
We are doing all we can to be more representative of London’s communities — nearly doubling the proportion of BME officers recruited — I believe this will improve our culture and gain us greater trust. We are also overhauling how we deal with staff grievances. Many didn’t trust the system to protect them. Again we have admitted we were getting it wrong and are changing. And in the coming months and years, as the public inquiries into child sexual exploitation and undercover policing examine the work of the police, we will have to show all the values we hold today.
Living our values will sometimes mean the Met is criticised or indeed that I get criticised. Holding these values is not without cost. Sometimes this is financial, and sometimes our reputation suffers in the short term as we admit some failings, amongst our many successes, in order to put them right. Nevertheless, if we want to be trusted and valued and if we want to improve as a service, then we have to demonstrate more than just the price of policing. We have to show off the Met’s values and in doing so, prove its value.