Two Metropolitan police officers watching pedestrians in London.
Image credit: Image by Fungai Tichawangana from Pixabay.

The Casey Report and its conclusions of institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia in the Metropolitan police makes horrific reading.

Undoubtedly, when the conversation turns to leadership and change parallels will be drawn with the experience of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland and its reframing as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), following the recommendations of the Patten report in 1999. While some comparisons are helpful – the scale of the challenge and the need for careful, considered and clearsighted leadership in particular – there are important differences.

The first is the fact that structural change does not automatically lead to cultural change. Structure is comparatively easy, but as the PSNI have found out, changing culture is a much more difficult endeavour.

The second is the external environment. The PSNI have struggled to manage a volatile political environment which has inevitably affected how change has been delivered. The Met should carefully consider how they can work more effectively and authentically with their external colleagues to coproduce outcomes internally and externally which better reflect what policing should be.

The third and most difficult issue is that of public confidence in policing. The PSNI have learnt that confidence is built incredibly slowly and can be rapidly lost. The Met will have to start from the ground up and translate into practice fine words about violence against women and girls, and commitments to equality and inclusion.

The old policing maxim ‘every contact leaves a trace’ has never been more true. For the Met that must apply to every officer and every contact with the public.