The chief of Britain’s largest police force has called for greater powers to sack racist, sexist and failing officers, as he revealed that one in 10 cannot do their jobs properly due to problems with health and performance.
Sir Mark Rowley, who started as Metropolitan police commissioner in September, said bureaucracy was making it difficult to dismiss officers who were falling short of expectations and called on the government to change regulations to make the process easier.
About 3,000 Met officers are not fully deployable because of worries over their performance or problems with physical or mental health, he said in an interview with the Times. A further 500 officers are on restricted duties or suspended over accusations of serious misconduct.
It comes after the Guardian reported Rowley’s calls for radical reforms to a controversial Met list of alleged gang members that mainly targeted black men “amplified disproportionality”.
While Rowley said the force would always help those injured on duty or suffering with mental health issues, the Met “can’t deal with a workforce where such a big proportion are not properly deployable”.
Many of those officers, he said, cannot work shifts or can only work limited hours a day or are constrained on public contact because of issues such as anxiety.
He added: “There does come a point that if you can’t be match fit to be a police officer, then it’s challenging for us in that it’s a large number of people we can’t properly deploy.”
Despite systemic failings in dealing with misconduct that emerged after the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard last year, Rowley said managers were being put off acting on officers who are “doing a bad job” by a six-stage process that takes more than a year.
“We can’t as an organisation exist if we can’t deploy 10 or 20 percent of our people,” he said. Last year, only six officers were dismissed for poor performance, which he said is a “low number” taking into consideration the size of the Met.
He also said that he had set a deadline for public services including the NHS and social care to deal with mental health cases instead of the police, freeingup officers to focus on reducing crime.
Met officers are spending an average of 14 hours in accident and emergency with mental health patients, he said. Next, he wants to set a date for tasks such as executing warrants on behalf of the NHS for people being sectioned to be handed over.
“There’s lots of work that is health and social care work that others can do, and should be doing, that we’re doing instead,” he said. “It’s not that those other areas aren’t important, but they’re not police work.”
A Met spokesperson told the Guardian they did not have anything further to add to Rowley’s comments.