Inside the Met Police: Former officers open up


The Metropolitan Police was recently described as institutionally misogynist in a review by Baroness Casey, who found that a “boys’ club” culture was rife and the force was failing to protect the public from officers who abuse women.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has told the BBC that the force is undergoing its “biggest doubling down on standards” in 50 years, as it tries to address the issue of its internal culture.

To try to get a sense of what policing can be like in London, the BBC has spoken to a former special constable and a detective, both of whom have written books about their experiences.

They have shared their accounts of some of the things they witnessed, and given their thoughts on what the future might hold.

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Jess McDonald joined the Met in 2018 as a trainee detective on a pilot scheme aimed at people wanting a career change by joining the police.

She said she witnessed chronic under-resourcing, “overwhelming” workloads and a “broken” justice system. In one place she was deployed, she said the facilities were so poor there was no space for staff to store their food, so people kept their lunches in a fridge-freezer that also contained evidence for rape cases.

Another officer who is no longer with the force is Matt Lloyd-Rose, who from 2012 to 2015 worked as a teacher alongside serving with the Met as a special constable – a volunteer role with full police powers including those of arrest.

Matt Lloyd-Rose, a man with light hair and a beard, in a navy jacket and white shirt.


Mr Lloyd-Rose, from Lambeth in south London, said some things he witnessed during his time with the force “stunned” him, including an occasion when his team had been out patrolling in a police van in Clapham.

“We’d been dealing with all sorts – stopping people for drugs, helping people who were drunk and confused, and chasing after illegal hotdog vendors,” he said.

“One of the regular officers then said that we would we be going ‘talent spotting’”, he added, and the team then drove “back and forth along the high street” while the regular officers were “making comments about the women outside of the window, having some sort of group discussions about who is most attractive, about who they would be most interested in having sex with”.

File image of people walking along Clapham High Street in Lambeth, south-west London.

Alex Davidson/Getty Images

On another occasion, he said a young woman approached the team after her bag had been snatched on the bus.

“She was really upset; she was sobbing and was visibly extremely distressed,” Mr Lloyd-Rose explained. “And then the regular who’s been dealing with her rolled his window back up again, and immediately said ‘she’d get [sexual expletive]’.”

Mr Lloyd-Rose said that while he didn’t witness “overt aggressive discrimination” there was a consistent “reinforcing of norms and boundaries, something insidious” that frequently involved targeting female staff.

“There was a real expectation the people who objected would be cut out of things, or would be provoked to try and overcome that objection,” he said.

‘Strip poker’

Mr Lloyd-Rose added that this attitude wasn’t only displayed by frontline officers but also by those leading training.

“One of the trainers was telling us about a female officer he had been on patrol with and he said: ‘Before you ask, I have seen her naked when we were playing strip poker.’

“The culture was openly expressed in front of diverse groups of officers who that trainer didn’t know at all, and he was kind of quite happy and confident that he could express that culture without anyone objecting.

“The institutional misogyny and sexism seemed ludicrously blatant, basically.

“That kind of culture both provides cover and and space for individuals with the most noxious views and others who have real intent to do harm, but it also provides a culture in which terrible things can become normalised.”

Jess McDonald, a woman with dark hair, standing outside New Scotland Yard.


As a detective, Jess McDonald’s experience was different from Mr Lloyd-Rose’s – although perhaps no less worrying in terms of what it says about the Met Police and the criminal justice system more widely.

During her time with the force, she was posted to the Community Safeguarding Unit, which deals with among other crimes cases of domestic and sexual violence.

She said the department was “internally known as the most difficult area of policing” due to the “trauma and the intensity of the role”.

“I would liken it before to kind of trying to fight a raging fire with a chocolate teapot.”

Jess McDonald at her passing-out ceremony.


She said that a sense of “hopelessness” was evident, “because you’re investigating rapes day in day out and so few of them are actually being taken further”.

“It’s the demoralisation of having to be the face or the person who turns round to someone who’s going to have gone through the whole investigative process… and saying, ‘you know I’m really sorry but it’s not even being charged’.”

Ms McDonald said the feeling of “futility” among Met staff doing this work was so widespread that on several occasions female colleagues said they wouldn’t bother reporting a sexual offence committed against them.

On one occasion, a training leader even admitted she felt this way to an entire room of trainees learning how to investigate rape, Ms McDonald said.

“Whilst we were learning about it all theoretically she says something along the lines of, ‘look, I probably wouldn’t report it if it happened to me’.”

File image of Sir Mark Rowley in uniform.

PA Media

Asked if she saw or heard of any women being treated poorly within the force, Ms McDonald recalled a time when a female colleague said she knew was filmed by a man “about to join a ranking of sergeant” on a rape team, while woman used the shower in police accommodation.

“Luckily, there was a third officer [a witness to what happened] and he was a superintendent of the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards,” she said.

Ms McDonald said the offender had met her colleague the night before and “knew exactly when she was going to be in the shower”.

“He films her using the shower through the glass window above the door. She was able to sort of see the phone in his hand when she passed out the shower and confronted him.”

Ms McDonald said the senior officer witnessed the confrontation and arrested his colleague for voyeurism.

The offender went on to be convicted of voyeurism, but Ms McDonald said: “I can’t help thinking if the other guy hadn’t seen that and jumped into action and knew what to do, I don’t think my friend would have taken it further.”

Within the Met, she believes there should be a focus on “empowering people to speak up internally on the front line” in cases where vetting fails to exclude those officers who joined the police to abuse their power.

“Internally, people know who the bad ones are… people who are doing frontline work get a feel for people; who’s creepy, who makes a comment,” she said.

“We’re currently doing nothing proactive… there is just this culture of silence and no-one really rocks the boat, nothing is really done. If you do speak up it’s huge.”


A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “The commissioner has been unequivocal about his commitment to reform the standards of the Met – he set out his plans following the publication of the Casey Report.

“We recognise that we have let down Londoners and our own staff.”

The spokesperson also highlighted the work the force has been doing “to improve standards and root out officers who do not meet these”, including a review of sexual and domestic abuse allegations against more than 800 officers and a project to utilise counter-terror tactics to catch predators who target women.

Matt Lloyd-Rose is the author of Into the Night: A Year with the Police, and Jess McDonald is the author of No Comment: What I Wish I’d Known about Becoming a Detective.


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Related Topics

  • Policing
  • Clapham
  • Metropolitan Police Service
  • Misogyny
  • London
  • The Casey Review

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  • Metropolitan Police

  • Baroness Casey Review

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