Sadiq Khan – 2022 Speech on Trust in Policing

The speech made by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, on 17 June 2022.

Thank you, Leonita.

Not only for that introduction and your inspiring words…

…but for everything you’re doing to ensure the voice, opinions and ideas of young people are heard loud and clear as we develop policies and programmes to reduce violence in our city.

As Sophie said, what you do is vital.

So please – let’s have another round of applause for Leonita.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

It’s as important as ever that we not only remember and celebrate Stephen’s life, but that we acknowledge – and reflect upon – his legacy.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry found that the Metropolitan Police Service was institutionally racist, and that institutional racism existed in other police forces around the country.

This judgement was a landmark moment in the history of British race relations…

…triggering far-reaching reforms to policing, public services and criminal law in this country.

There’s no doubt that the police and criminal justice system have made significant and positive steps forward since then.

But it’s become painfully clear that further reform – on a far-reaching scale – is now urgently needed.

And let me be frank, I consider this to be one of the most important speeches I will give as Mayor.

Because after nearly two hundred years since the creation of the Met, policing in our city has reached a crossroads.

And ensuring we take the right path is crucial to the future of our city.

At the outset, I must and want to put on record again that there are tens of thousands of incredible, incredibly brave and decent police officers in the Met…

…dedicated public servants who go above and beyond every day to keep us safe.

Just last week a Metropolitan police officer ran into a house-fire to save a family.

And, every year, the Police Bravery Awards highlight some remarkable stories of courage in London:

From two police officers saving the life of a seven-year-old girl who was being attacked.

To officers saving the lives of two teenagers after they used themselves as human shields.

The job the police do – protecting us and upholding the law of the land – makes everything else possible.

It’s the bedrock upon which all else can flourish.

And we owe the men and women who risk their lives – often in the knowledge that they have children and loved ones to get home to after a shift – a huge debt of gratitude.

So let’s be clear:

Talking about the need for urgent police reform is not being anti-police.

Far from it.

In fact – it’s the exact opposite.

It’s about believing the police can be excellent.

And it’s about facing up to some hard truths so that we can ensure we have the best, most effective and most professional police force for Londoners.

A police force that is second-to-none at bearing down on crime, bringing people to justice and keeping our city safe.

Throughout my time as Mayor, I’ve defended London’s police when I think they’ve been unfairly criticised.

And this is something I’ll always do.

No other Mayor has invested more in the police than I have.

Good officers are one of the most valuable and precious resources we have in London.

But given what’s at stake, we have a duty to be honest about the extent of the problems and the systemic and organisational changes that are urgently required within the Met, rather than seeking to downplay or shy away from the challenge we face.

The reality is that a series of appalling scandals have not only exposed deep cultural problems within the Met, but have contributed to an acute crisis of confidence in London’s police force.

A crisis that has left trust in the Met police at rock bottom among too many communities – many of whom – if we’re being honest – already had little faith in the police force.

The latest crisis comes in the wake of:

The kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

The heavy-handed policing of the vigil held in Sarah’s memory.

Two police officers sharing pictures of the murdered sisters, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman.

The failures during the Stephen Port investigation that probably contributed to the deaths of his final three victims – Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor – after the murder of Anthony Walgate – with accusations that homophobia prevented the police from catching the serial killer sooner.

And the shameful strip-search of Child Q – a 15-year-old Black girl whose degrading treatment was likely influenced by racism.

The testimony of Child Q’s mother – about how her daughter has gone from a bubbly, happy-go-lucky girl to someone who’s self-harming, in need of therapy and screaming in her sleep – has been utterly heart-breaking.

And I’ll never forget the first time I read the shocking Operation Hotton report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the police watchdog, just over four months ago.

That exposed sickening evidence of overt racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination and misogyny among police officers at Charing Cross station.

The messages shared between officers threatened rape, glorified sexual violence and were openly racist, Islamophobic and antisemitic.

One read:

“My dad kidnapped some African children and used them to make dog food.”

Another:

“Some uniform or plain clothes work on Somalian rats… I battered one the other day…”

And another:

“You ever slapped your Mrs?… It makes them love you more…”

I’m not going to read any more, don’t worry.

But perhaps what was most striking – and revealing – was that these officers felt comfortable sharing deeply offensive messages in Whatsapp groups with other officers – messages that were only made public due to an independent investigation.

And this points to a much wider problem – a damaging culture.

And – damningly – the Independent Office for Police Conduct concluded as much.

Clearly, these issues were not isolated or historic, and cannot simply be explained away as the actions of just a few bad apples.

I know that what’s been exposed in recent months has profoundly affected countless Londoners, who have every right to be outraged and to be demanding answers.

These are feelings I share.

The scandals have left me sick to my stomach – disgusted and extremely angry.

Partly because they remind me – and I’m sure many other Londoners – of the bad old days of the Met.

The Met I knew from my childhood.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s on a council estate in south London, it was commonplace to hear stories from friends and family members of racist, sexist and abusive behaviour by police officers.

There was a palpable sense in my community that the presence of the police on our local streets did not offer reassurance or a sense of protection, but rather fear…

…the fear of being unfairly criminalised or mistreated.

In my life – and during the course of my career – I’ve seen and felt the damage that this kind of breakdown of trust can cause.

It makes it harder to tackle crime.

It prevents victims and witnesses of violence from coming forward.

It discourages many girls and women from reporting rape, domestic abuse and sexual harassment.

And it leads to local communities – the eyes and ears of the police on the ground – becoming less likely to work with officers when, for example, they’re worried about young people getting involved in criminal gangs and violence.

This affects us all, and the safety of everyone in our city.

This is why the damage to trust and confidence in the police is not a side issue or marginal concern that can be downplayed or dismissed.

Trust is everything.

We have a longstanding tradition in this country of policing by consent.

It’s the very foundation upon which our whole system of policing rests.

At the heart of this approach is the recognition that for policing to be effective, public approval, respect and confidence in the service is paramount.

When this trust is eroded, our model of policing – and thereby public safety – is put at risk.

Trust is absolutely fundamental to preventing crime, to solving crime and to ensuring we have the best possible police service for Londoners.

This is why you simply cannot divorce the deep cultural issues that clearly exist within the Met from its wider performance as an institution.

The two are inextricably linked.

To put it simply:

The more inclusive the culture, the more trust the police can command…

The more trust the police can command, the more they can drive down crime.

And – in turn – the more crime falls, the more trust the police can win.

It’s this virtuous circle we must create – replacing the depressing downward spiral of recent years.

During my time as Mayor, violent crime has fallen in the capital.

We’re managing to buck national trends:

Since 2016 when I was first elected:

Gun crime is down by 30 per cent.

Knife crime with injury is down by 11 per cent.

Knife crime where the victim is under 25 is down by 24 per cent.

And the number of teenagers murdered in our city is down by 64 per cent in the first five months of this year.

Of course, we’re not complacent.

These are not just numbers – they’re people.

One murder on our streets is one too many – leaving parents, siblings and friends grieving.

We cannot rest.

And if we’re to continue making progress, ensuring communities across London have trust in our police force is going to be critical.

This is particularly the case when it comes to tackling the senseless knife crime that results in the murder of young Londoners, including a disproportionate number of young Black people, many just teenagers… just children.

We know that violent crime is not a problem we can solve simply through enforcement alone.

We’re never going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem.

Prevention and early intervention are key parts of the puzzle, where trust is integral.

Because it means working in partnership with families, local communities, schools, charities, the NHS, youth clubs, and the police… to prevent children from being sucked into criminal gangs and violence in the first place. This is a public health approach.

So how can we turn things around?

As Mayor, I’ve already taken a series of steps since 2016 – using the limited powers and resources available to me – to boost trust and confidence in our police force.

This includes:

A huge push to recruit more officers from London’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, as well as more women.

Investing to protect visible neighbourhood policing.

And the world’s biggest rollout of body-worn cameras to London’s frontline officers.

We’ve also launched a new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.

We’ve put trust and confidence at the heart of our new Police and Crime Plan;

We’ve comprehensively overhauled the gangs Matrix, removing over a thousand young Black men from the database.

And we’ve published an Action Plan to address the concerns about the disproportionate use of certain police powers on Black Londoners, including stop and search.

But this must just be the start.

We now need to see nothing less than a new contract forged between the police and the public.

This means root and branch reforms to improve policing to ensure the Met can deliver the basics better.

It means an overhaul of disciplinary processes.

And it means systemic change to the Met’s culture.

But before any of this, before any of this, Londoners need to hear the leadership of the Met publicly acknowledge the scale and depth of the problems.

Something which will be a crucial first step for the next Commissioner to start rebuilding trust and credibility with our communities.

Look, no one expects the police to be perfect, or to get things right all the time.

But they do expect the Met to be honest and open about their mistakes – to identify problems and to admit when they’re happening.

It’s a sign of confidence, not weakness.

And it’s essential to rebuilding trust.

I make no apology for demanding this.

It’s not about being political.

It’s democracy in action.

It’s the checks and balances of power, without which we’d still be living with the kind of policing we saw before the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

My job as the elected Mayor of this great city is not only to support the police in bearing down on crime, but to hold the Met to account.

And I’ll never shirk from these duties.

That’s why I want to make crystal clear today I won’t support the appointment of a new Commissioner unless:

They can demonstrate they understand the true extent of the cultural and organisational problems within the Met.

That they appreciate the moral and operational imperatives to confront them head on.

And they have a convincing plan to reduce crime further, improve detection rates and bring more criminals to justice.

London needs a reforming Commissioner.

Someone in the mould of Sir Robert Mark – who got the job in 1972.

He became known for his determination to root out corruption and criminality.

For the way he took steps to improve relations with communities in London.

For making the Met more transparent.

And for driving forward efforts to make the police more diverse.

Although some of the issues the Met faces today are of course different, there’s no doubt that we need someone with a similar drive to reform.

Not just of the culture and standards, but of some of the fundamentals of the organisation.

We also need someone who acknowledges that they’re never going to be able to solve all the problems alone.

This means the type of leadership that:

Understands and accepts the Met needs to improve.

And is ready and confident enough to bring in outside expertise and oversight to ensure we get the systemic, organisational change – from top to bottom – that’s required.

The next Commissioner needs to ensure that every rank and layer of the Met is working towards a shared goal and is properly held to account.

In short, the next Commissioner must ‘get it’.

They must be a reformer.

They must be humble in accepting the limitations of the Met, and open to learning and constant improvement.

And they must put forward a comprehensive plan to deal with these deep-rooted problems with urgency and conviction.

I’ll accept nothing less.

This is my promise to Londoners.

I’ve dedicated a large part of my working life to trying to make policing better.

And – as Mayor – I’ll not stop until we’ve delivered the police reforms and step change in policing culture that our city deserves.

To achieve this – and to forge a new contract between the police and the public – we need to see a whole host of new commitments and reforms:

More robust vetting of new and serving police officers.

Better recruitment processes to ensure we only get the right, top quality people in the job.

Far-reaching changes to the misconduct process, which includes making it much faster.

Proactive procedures to weed out those who should never have been allowed to become police officers in the first place.

Strengthened IT monitoring within the Met to help identify corrupt officers and inappropriate behaviour.

Ensuring officers and staff have confidence to come forward as whistleblowers.

Better training and supervision – particularly sergeants and inspectors who are so influential in shaping the frontline police culture and delivering the policing Londoners expect.

Clear steps on how the Met will not just tackle racism, but proactively be an anti-racist institution.

Greater community oversight and engagement with Londoners from all backgrounds.

And a first-class emergency response, which protects Londoners, supports victims and brings those who commit crime to justice.

Ensuring the Met is the best in the world at the bread-and-butter issues of policing will always be a key part of rebuilding trust.

Because it’s about assuring Londoners that our police force will always be there for them – and for all our communities – in their time of need.

We must also redouble our efforts to hire more officers from diverse backgrounds.

The Met is bigger and more diverse today than at any time in its history, but we have a long way to go.

And so I want to take this opportunity now to appeal to Londoners from all backgrounds to apply to join the Met police.

Now, more than ever, we need you.

London needs you.

Because you can help change the culture of the Met from within.

You could help serve our great city.

And you could help us to ensure we have a police force that is truly representative of the communities it exists to serve.

I was instrumental in the establishment of the independent review of culture and standards at the Met, and I look forward to examining Baroness Louise Casey’s report and considering any recommendations she makes.

I also supported the Home Secretary’s decision to order a full inquiry into the issues raised by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

Because I know this tragedy has done so much to damage the faith of women and girls in the police.

As we move forward, I’m keen to work both with the Home Secretary and the new Commissioner to ensure we act on the findings of these reports and the reforms I’ve outlined today.

This is especially true with regard to changes to the misconduct process, which can only be made with the Home Secretary and the Government’s approval.

We need to work together.

Because this goes much wider than London.

As the Police Foundation has said, the cultural and systemic problems in London – which has led to in their words “a crisis of public confidence” – are also present across the country, and will also require sweeping reforms at a national level.

I’m hopeful that together – in partnership with the next Commissioner, the Home Secretary, the Government, members of our police force and London’s communities – that we can:

Deliver the reforms that are needed to create a modern police service, fit for the future.

That we can drive out racism, misogyny, discrimination and bullying.

And that we can restore the trust and confidence of Londoners in their police force.

In 21st century Britain.

In an open, diverse city like ours.

It’s essential that all of London’s communities feel like the police are there not to threaten or criminalise them, but to protect and serve them.

I’ve heard time and again – directly from the parents of girls and Black teenagers, and young people across our city – that what they want more than anything else is for their children to be safe, to feel safe, and to feel like the police is there to protect them – and is on their side.

On their side.

They should expect nothing less.

It’s what I want when my daughters go out in London.

It’s what every parent and Londoner wants.

And we mustn’t relent until this is the case.

Let me just finish with this important point:

I fundamentally believe in the Met.

And I’m proud to be London’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

I know we have thousands of brilliant police officers who not only share my concerns, but my aspirations for better policing in London.

I’ve spoken to many who are just as disgusted as I am by what’s come to light in recent times – and feel badly let down by their colleagues and the toxic culture that’s been allowed to take hold.

They’re desperate to play their part in raising standards, aiding organisational change within the Met, and ensuring the bond with the communities they serve is restored and strengthened.

People who say that when we come down hard on police officers who behave badly we are somehow reducing confidence in the police are totally wrong.

It’s the opposite.

And it sells our good officers short.

We need to create the right culture in policing to ensure the good officers have the trust of the public, which will make it far easier for them to do their job.

It’s the decent police officers we have in the Met that continue to give me hope that we can meet the challenges ahead.

Because I know that with the right leadership at the top of the Met, they are the ones who can do what’s needed to win back public trust.

Of course, history tells us that none of this is going to be easy.

Change on this scale at the speed we need is difficult.

But we owe it to Stephen Lawrence, to Sarah Everard, to Child Q, to all the victims of the recent scandals, to all their friends and families, and to all Londoners –– to continue the struggle with fierce determination and an unflinching sense of purpose.

Because change is long overdue.

And delivering it will be crucial to building a better, fairer and safer London for everyone, and for all our communities.

Londoners deserve the best policing in the world – and I believe we have the potential to get there.

Thank you.