Combative denial isn’t going to help restore the Met

COMMENT: The Met needs a revamp, not just in the attitudes of its officers and top bosses, but in its relationship with the public and the media too

Thursday, 2nd June

Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick

A string of scandals that, eventually, brought about the resignation of Commissioner Cressida Dick

THE Met Police has for years run a machine-like publicity department working 24 hours a day at the beck and call of journalists across the capital.

The Press Bureau pumps out dozens of press releases each week packaging together family statements, photos of the convicted, one-sided reports of court hearings and comments from investigating detectives.

Regularly, particularly since the rise of hits-chasing internet journalism, these are uploaded to news websites verbatim or welcomed with open arms by understaffed newspaper editors who haven’t got time to find other stories and have to fill space fast.

You can tell a paper is on its knees by the number of Met press releases it runs each week, often sensationalised with names and mugshots of the accused, often without context or their legal defence.

Like any organisation that spends big on PR, the Met’s aim is to maintain an effective public profile.

But in the past year there have been a string of scandals that, eventually, brought about the resignation of Commissioner Cressida Dick.

These included the police murder of Sarah Everard, the ensuing vigil, detectives posing for selfies with murder victims, delayed investigating Downing Street parties, to the boneheaded WhatsApp group messages of Soho officers.

Quite simply, the cops have taken a pasting and no matter how many releases the Met puts out about its fine work fighting crime, the mud has stuck.

This may explain a change that our reporters have noticed in Press Bureau behaviour in recent weeks.

When asked for statements about a crime, the first response is regularly that the incident cannot be found on their system. There is a new combative tone to our exchanges.

This week the Press Bureau spent two days claiming it had no information about a florist being knocked off his bike by the police car.

Last week, they similarly claimed they had no information about a man who was stabbed while riding a delivery bike.

It is almost as if the new thinking is if they simply refuse to confirm crimes have happened, maybe they will not get reported at all.

Dennis Carroll, who got knocked off his bike, said he had always held the police in high regard until his experience of the way they treated him over the collision.

The Met, a publicly funded body, needs to be more open if it is to repair its damaged reputation. It needs a revamp, not just in the attitudes of its officers and top bosses, but in its relationship with the public and the media too.

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