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Trust and Culture: A review into the Met Police

Over a year on from the highly controversial partygate scandal and subsequent Sue Gray report, it seems reasonable to comment again on the declining lack of trust the people of the UK has in its leading public bodies, including the Met Police.

Before, I drew upon the statistics of the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report to evidence how the general public’s trust in the government had weakened. Timely, the 2023 report has recently been published and this still remains the case.

Alongside the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report, exploring the findings of the extensive Baroness Casey Review, an independent review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Met Police, will allow us to discover what forms of change are required within our government and public bodies for them to regain public trust.

As an organisation that specialises in leadership and development, we understand first-hand how difficult it can be to lead in certain areas. The Met has faced significant challenges over the last ten years. Many of these have been beyond their control. These include austerity, changes in crime patterns, greater non-crime demand and a regulatory system that makes it difficult to rid of those who corrupt the Met’s integrity. However, because of the actions of some within the Metropolitan Police Service that resulted in significant human costs, trust, or a lack of it, has again risen to the forefront of public concern.

With the Met appointing a new leadership team, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that they would not have his support unless they can demonstrate they understand the true extent of the cultural and organisational problems within the Met. This poses an internal challenge for the Met’s leadership team. What reforms can they introduce that can begin to fix these cultural issues?

Policing by consent

The problem that the Met faces is that if trust and confidence are not restored to some degree, society risks losing policing by consent. Policing by consent is to recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect. Rebuilding public confidence in the policing service is essential if we are to safeguard a legitimate future for policing – consent is not unconditional, it relies on the police operating with integrity and accountability. Fearfully, if policing by consent begins to fail, we threaten our national democratic representation and a breakdown in law and order.

Leaders of the UK’s leading public bodies, as well as leaders within government, can help strengthen the public’s approval of and confidence in the Met’s existence by encouraging a leadership style based on ethical values, policy and process and organisational structure. Therefore, in understanding organisational and workplace culture, the need for inclusive leadership and the need for ethical leaders, perhaps we can begin to understand how the government and the UK’s leading public bodies can rebuild the trust and confidence of the people of the UK.


The Baroness Casey Review (BCR) found evidence of widespread bullying, discrimination, institutional homophobia, misogyny and racism, and other harmful behaviours inside areas of the Met Police; all of which are not in line with the high ethical standards that the public, and the Met, expects of its police officers. However, this is not the first case of a public body finding itself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Reports of bullying, misogyny and discrimination in the London Fire Brigade made national headlines in November 2022, followed by stories from other Fire and Rescue Services across the country.

What is clear is that there are a number of deep-rooted issues within the cultures of many leading public bodies and organisations. The BCR suggests that the Met is yet to free itself of institutional racism. This is an example of a deeper-rooted cultural problem.

Trust for the Met amongst ethnic and minority groups is at an all-time low. The BCR reports that those from Black and mixed ethnic groups have lower trust and confidence in the Met than other ethnic groups, scoring 10 to 20% lower than average on trust and 5 to 10% lower on confidence.

A common theme in cases whereby an organisation seems to have a culture issue is a strong ‘machismo’ culture where staff feel under pressure to ‘prove themselves’; a culture, characterised by the need to gain approval and be liked. It might be dangerous to assume that this culture was prevalent in the UK’s police forces. However, research suggests that there are unwritten cultural expectations within the UK police force: including, the need to demonstrate ‘tough and forceful’ behaviours, symbolised by an aggressive, competitive and performance-driven leadership style.

A consistently high level of genuine caring, encouragement, affiliation, and mutual support are all characteristics of a ‘constructive’ culture. The question then is, how does an organisation go about encouraging and implementing a culture like this?

Inclusive leadership

It is important to understand that responsibility for inclusion does not lie strictly with the senior leaders of an organisation; it is about having those open conversations and using the correct language throughout. Also, influencing does not necessarily mean solely downwards; it can be sideways and upwards. It is up to everybody within an organisation to encourage open discussions about inclusivity and intentional and unintentional exclusion.

Inclusivity has become somewhat of a buzzword and yet, a lot of people do not actually understand what inclusive leadership actually is. As a Roffey Park Institute associate and Inclusive Leadership Expert Sile Walsh asserts, inclusivity is not about being nice or PC; it is not about knowing everything about diversity labels and needs; it is not about never making a mistake; it is not simply a tick box exercise. Change is and will always be a process – it does not happen overnight. During change, there is no shame in making mistakes; inclusivity is also a process, not a concept. It is much more useful to make a mistake than it is a simple tick-box exercise and the general public is becoming more aware of the organisations that are only doing this. They want real and meaningful change.

How can one encourage a culture of inclusivity? Current legislation requires that we do not discriminate but not that we must include, so it is extremely important that we begin to have these conversations. As well as open conversations, completing self-assessments, internal practices, middle, senior and formal leaders championing inclusion, fostering a learning environment, using coaching approaches in conversation, awareness of inclusive leadership and psychological safety and its relationship with performance, could all be more effective ways of trying to enact change rather than enforcing power.

Fostering an inclusive environment will begin to translate positively throughout the whole organisation. The Met is a £4 billion public institution, but as the BCR suggests, all too often it has been unaccountable to the public and their representatives. An increase in inclusivity and transparency is just one way to help to rebuild trust between themselves and the public.

Trust in leadership

A recent poll by Ipsos MORI claims that politicians, business leaders and bankers are less trusted than builders. Alongside this, the lack of trust in the media and the widening class division, society is dangerously facing greater polarization. It is during these times more than most that people look to public bodies, such as the Met Police, as a stable place of safety and trust.

Every member of the UK police force should be a leader. Their role is to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder whilst upholding and enforcing the law. They are role models; they are to be looked up to by the young and lauded as protectors of peace within society.

The Met has recently appointed a senior leadership team that offers experience, diversity, energy and determination as they embark on what they declare ‘a pivotal new chapter’. Findings of Roffey Park’s research report, The Lived Experiences of Trust, tell us that changes in behaviour can rebuild and restore perceptions of trust where this has felt to have been lost. Diversifying an organisation that is 82% white and 71% male is a start, especially within the senior leadership team. This is the change that the public wants to see and that can help the Met begin to rebuild trust.

But it is also about encouraging and teaching the leadership skills necessary throughout the whole of the Met Police, especially those police officers that represent and act out societal values on the streets. Despite the challenge that the Met faces, institutes such as Roffey Park Institute can help. An extensive and thorough leadership development programme can encourage high performance, healthy work cultures, ethical leaders and inclusive workspaces. All of which can and will translate onto the streets of the UK and throughout the people. Trust and confidence can be rebuilt.

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