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The Met needs diversity to work

COMMENTS: Former Detective chief inspector, Dr. David Michael

THE METROPOLITAN police will continue to face scandals such as phone hacking until the force becomes more diverse and more independent at the most senior levels, says one of Briton’s most well-known black officers.

Former Detective chief inspector, Dr. David Michael, who helped found the original Black Police Association, told The Voice phone hacking happened because senior police officers got too close to people in News International and others who part of the same social circle, ethnic background and mindset.

Michael said while things have improved in the Met, “Most of the people at the very top are men and white men and when you look at the kind of people they have been rubbishing shoulders with and the man who got the consultancy, you note it… They don’t have a diverse set of people. If you have that, the thinking will be in the same narrow way.”

Micheal added that a more diverse set of officers at senior levels would encourage a more robust debate about what the right thing was too, how to engage with other organisations/institutions and could ensure officers hold each other to account which in turn leads to better decision making – and better handling of situations so they don’t become scandals.

“They would bring different experiences of life, different thought, different processes and different problem solving approaches,” he said. “It would also mean challenging what some of us refer to as the occupational culture of the police.”

Michael, who also chaired Lewisham’s Community Police Consultative Group, said: “The advice they are getting is not diverse,” said Michael, who spent 30 years in the force, where, among his duties, he also investigated complaints against other cops.

“Sometimes you need to get advice from people you don’t particularly like, you are not that comfortable with and when you see the diversity of London, too much of the high command of Scotland Yard is saying well we don’t want to hear from certain people; we won’t give consultancy things to certain people. It’s too glaringly obvious.”

Unless the Met doesn’t take on the message of diversity at senior levels, not only will scandals like phone hacking happen, so will other scandals. “We will keep getting more Jean Charles de Menenzes; we will keep getting more Stephen Lawrences because they are too narrow. They are saying we only want people who look like us and talk like us…”

“They will keep making these …until they start actually saying London is made up of a diverse community; we have got people from all walks of life; of all backgrounds; of all races – and we are going to include all of them.”

Michael added that while there are many hard working police officers, “There is stuff about narcissism and arrogance and for the Met to move forward, it has to shed some of that…It shouldn’t be a cosy you scratch my back; I scratch yours.”

He welcomed the decision by Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to resign on Sunday (July 17). He had also wanted to see Deputy Assistant John Yates resign. Yates resigned earlier today. Both Stephenson and Yates had come under increasing pressure over their links to a Met consultancy contract issued to former News of the World editor, Neil Wallis.

Of Yates, Micheal said: “Professionally, he has blundered and he himself should have realised. My view is that Assistant Commissioner should have resigned as soon as that matter with Milly Dowler incident came to light.”

Of the former Commissioner Stephenson, Micheal said: “He definitely should have gone and I think he should have gone even before he went…”

But he also warned that in appointing new leaders, the Met must not miss this opportunity to bring greater diversity into the force’s leadership

In the past, he has been very critical of a system, which he said made it difficult for black cops such as former Chief Constable Mike Fuller to get to senior roles such as Police Commissioner.

He said the Met has not adequately invested in making sure there are black officers who have been groomed to become serious black candidates for the role of police commissioner following Stephenson’s resignation.

He said: “There is a big issue about how the Home Office deal with these things. There hasn’t been any succession planning. In my view, from City Hall to the Home Office and to everyone involved in the governance of policing in Britain, I don’t think it is an issue for them. I don’t think they really have taken having a representative police force (seriously) generally but especially in terms of the high command of the met and other police services. It’s isn’t a vote winner for politicians of any particular party.”

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