Rape threats and Auschwitz jokes shame of Met cops revealed by watchdog

1 February 2022, 11:17 | Updated: 1 February 2022, 14:42

  • IOPC probe began in March 2018 after officer was accused of having sex with drunk person at police station
  • Report found Met Police officers joked about rape and sent racist and homophobic messages as ‘banter’
  • Racist texts uncovered about Muslim “fanatics”, “Somalian rats”, and others which made reference to Auschwitz
  • Fourteen police officers were investigated - two dismissed for gross misconduct
  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was "utterly disgusted" by the findings
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel said the "sickening" officers had abused the privilege of being in the police
  • Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the Home Office needed to "take responsibility" for standards
The police watchdog found evidence of bullying, racism and misogyny among a team of officers at Charing Cross police station
The police watchdog found evidence of bullying, racism and misogyny among a team of officers at Charing Cross police station. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The Metropolitan Police has issued an apology after the police watchdog found a group of officers shared "disgusting" rape threats, racist abuse, and vile jokes about the holocaust.

The police watchdog said a series of investigations had found evidence of bullying and a shocking culture of racist abuse and misogyny within the ranks of the Metropolitan Police at Charing Cross police station in central London.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it believed the "incidents are not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few bad apples”.

Operation Hotton began in March 2018 and found text and WhatsApp messages between officers which were highly sexualised, discriminatory or referred to violence, which they tried to defend as "banter".

An investigation discovered numerous messages about rape and ‘raping’ each other, with one officer sending messages saying “I would happily rape you” to a female colleague.

One police officer was referred to as “mcrapey raperson” in a WhatsApp exchange.

When colleagues were asked to explain the nickname, they said there were rumours about him bringing a woman back to the police station for sex. Another colleague said he thought the nickname related to “harassing" women.

Officers also joked about attending a festival dressed as known sex offenders.

The investigation also found evidence of discriminatory and offensive behaviour and messages being shared.

Black and Asian police officers spoke of being ostracised and investigators uncovered messages mocking non-Christian religions, the Black Lives Matter movement, people with disabilities, racism and homophobia.

One remark uncovered was a vile anti-Semitic joke about killing flies.

The conclusions are damning almost one year after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, by Met firearms officer Wayne Couzens last March.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) made a series of recommendations to the force, which has come under pressure over its handling of the murder of Sarah Everard and the ensuing protests, including tackling "underlying cultural issues".

Of the 14 officers investigated, two were dismissed for gross misconduct and put on the barred list, preventing future employment with the police, while another two resigned and several others faced disciplinary action, the IOPC said.

A Met statement said: "The conduct of a team of officers at Charing Cross police station in central London does not represent the values of the Metropolitan Police Service.

"We are deeply sorry to Londoners and everyone they have failed with their appalling conduct and acknowledge how this will damage the trust and confidence of many in the Met.

"Since this reprehensible behaviour was uncovered in 2017 we have taken a series of measures to hold those responsible to account and stamp out unacceptable behaviour."

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said the behaviour the probes uncovered was "disgraceful" and fell below the standards expected of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

He said: "While these officers predominantly worked in teams in Westminster, which have since been disbanded, we know from other recent cases that these issues are not isolated or historic.

"We acknowledge work carried out by the Met to tackle these problems, including its Rebuilding Trust plan focusing on standards, culture and women's safety; the strengthening of its whistleblowing line; and the STRIDE 25 strategy and action plan for inclusion, diversity and engagement. MPS culture and standards of behaviour are also subject to a formal review by Baroness Casey of Blackstock.

"While we welcome these steps, more is required.

"Our recommendations focus on the identified cultural issues and aim to ensure that those who work for the force feel safe with their colleagues and that communities feel safe with those whose job is to protect them. The MPS has to enjoy the trust and confidence of its own officers from diverse communities before it can hope to bridge the gap in trust and confidence with the communities it serves.

"The learning report we are publishing today is shocking and contains language which is offensive - and some may find it upsetting. However, we felt it was important to provide the context for the public, the Met and other forces for why such hard-hitting recommendations are necessary."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Being a police officer is a privilege which has been abused by these sickening officers.

"It has been clear for some time that there are problems with the culture of the Metropolitan Police, which is why last year I tasked the Angiolini Inquiry and the police inspectorate with investigating these deeply concerning issues.

"I expect the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London to implement the recommendations of this report as soon as practically possible.

"The public rightly expects the behaviour of the police to be beyond reproach - standards must be raised."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was "utterly disgusted" by the findings.

He said: "The conduct of these officers was totally unacceptable and what has been revealed by these investigations will only further damage public trust and confidence in the police.

"It is right that the team concerned has been disbanded and the police officers found to be involved have been dismissed, disciplined or have left the police. Anyone found to be responsible for sexism, racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, antisemitism, bullying or harassment does not deserve to wear the Met uniform and must be rooted out.

"While I welcome the IOPC's recommendations, more is required and I've been clear with the commissioner about the scale of change that's needed to rebuild trust with Londoners.

"Baroness Casey has been appointed to lead an independent review into the Met's culture and standards. This review will be vital to fully addressing and eradicating misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia within the police, as well as scrutinising police processes and standards of behaviour across the organisation amongst officers and staff.

"In the meantime, the Met has set out the immediate action it is taking to rebuild public trust and confidence, and I want to assure Londoners that I will continue to hold the Met to account on delivering these commitments so that we see the changes needed and the public deserve."

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the Home Office had to take responsibility for ensuring standards are met across the force.

"This IOPC report has uncovered appalling behaviour by officers at Charing Cross Police Station," she said.

"This kind of abuse, racism, misogyny, bullying and disrespect is a disgrace and should never have any place within policing, where the highest standards must always be maintained. It must be rooted out swiftly wherever it is found.

"While the IOPC has made important and welcome recommendations and some action has been taken, this does not go far enough.

"There needs to be action by police forces to ensure that training and vetting are improved, that a strong culture of respect is always maintained, and that the use of social media is reviewed and, where necessary, overhauled.

"Police officers across the country work incredibly hard every day to keep communities safe and that is why it is so important that high standards are always maintained.

"The Home Office must not stand back and leave it to individual forces.

"Ministers need to take responsibility for ensuring the highest standards are always met across policing and must ensure the College of Policing and police forces work together on the action needed."