The head of the UK’s biggest police force has said it is “crazy” that he cannot sack “toxic” officers who have broken the law.
Responding to a disclosure in the Guardian that 150 officers are under investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct or racism, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, admitted that the force’s vetting procedures were inadequate.
Challenged about the figures, Rowley said: “We have some very worrying cases with officers who’ve committed criminality whilst police officers and yet I’m not allowed to sack them. It’s sort of, it’s crazy.”
Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme about the 150 cases he added: “The investigation needs to take place – not all of those cases will have have a case to answer, but many of them will.”
He added: “We’ve got some officers who we sacked, but other legal bodies, who have a power to reinstate them, did. So I’ve got officers who we determined shouldn’t be police officers and yet I have to keep them. It sounds bizarre – I’m the commissioner, yet I can’t decide who my own workforce is.”
Rowley said he had the backing of the government to rapidly change the police recruitment system. “The home secretary and the prime minister have been very helpful in ordering a review that I hope will change the rules to make it easy to move the toxic people.”
Campaigners have questioned how rogue officers were recruited. Rowley said: “There were cases where there were warning signs and our vetting wasn’t good enough. That’s why we’re beefing that up.”
Rowley also expressed alarm about falling levels of police pay that were forcing some officers to rely on food banks.
He said: “I’m concerned about the cumulative effect of challenging pay over many, many years. Frontline officers have lost about 14% in real terms over over a decade.”
He added: “They have no desire to strike; it’s not allowed but they are frustrated. I’ve seen data about police officers using using food banks, which is really concerning.”
Rowley also said he wanted more flexibility on the type of people who were recruited to policing.
He said: “There will be people out there who have got really specialist skills who would make a great detective in the fraud or cyber world, that probably wouldn’t be great at confronting a drunk on a Friday night. At the moment, all of our officers have to have the same core set of skills and I will need some flexibility about that.”