Can the BBC justify airing a promotional piece for the London police in their Met review?
Is it appropriate to air a positive documentary about the Metropolitan Police during this time? On the contrary, it is exactly the right time. Any organization would want to address the severe damage caused by recent events, such as the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard by officer Wayne Couzens (known as “The Rapist” in his previous job) and the use of excessive force at a vigil held in her honor, mostly attended by women. This includes the inquest in 2021 that revealed the force’s shortcomings contributed to the deaths of three out of four men killed by “the Grindr killer” Stephen Port. Other incidents include officers sharing disrespectful images of the victims of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman’s murders through WhatsApp, the strip-searching of Child Q at school without another adult present (which was not an isolated case), and the 30-year imprisonment of officer David Carrick for numerous violent and sexual offenses, including 24 counts of rape. Despite numerous complaints and allegations against him, he was not investigated during his time with the Met. These are just a few examples of the disturbing headlines that we do not have enough space to cover here.
This is the background for the BBC’s documentary, The Met: Policing London. It starts by acknowledging the existence of Couzens and a report by Baroness Casey, after a year of investigation, which found the Metropolitan Police to have institutional racism, misogyny, and homophobia. The documentary also includes a clip of Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley promising to regain public trust. However, it fails to mention that the report by Louise Casey suggested that the force may need to be dismantled in order to effectively eradicate any corruption. Instead, the documentary portrays the police force as noble and courageous, despite facing an uncertain future and the constant presence of crime.
The showreel opens with a focus on the protagonists. We witness a probe into the killing of 17-year-old Levi Ernest-Morrison, who was fatally stabbed on a crowded street during the day by a trio of teenagers who believed he belonged to a rival gang. The mother of one of the teenagers drove them to the scene. It is a tragic tale.
We join patrol officers Wes and Martha as they respond to a suspected case of domestic violence, during which Wes is physically assaulted. We witness their efforts to apprehend a man who was reported to be wielding a knife while also dealing with young individuals setting off fireworks. Throughout their actions, they are constantly recorded, ridiculed, and harassed by onlookers.
We are tracking the modern slavery division in Harrow as they gather evidence for a lengthy investigation into a human trafficking ring operating from Romania. This effort has led to the arrest of a husband and wife who have been holding young women against their will and coercing them into prostitution in several ordinary-looking houses in suburban north London.
Where does this leave us? Do we now trust fully again? Are we convinced that Casey was mistaken and that Couzens (along with Carrick, and PCs Jamie Lewis and Deniz Jaffer, the officers who shared photos of the murdered sisters) were just a few bad apples removed from the group? Or are we pathetically grateful that the force can still present a few decent (or seemingly decent) officers for a single documentary? Are we slightly concerned that Levi’s mother’s raw and agonizing grief was used for advertising purposes? Or are we mainly questioning if it is really the BBC’s responsibility to aid in the rehabilitation of what appears to be a deeply corrupt organization, rather than putting in the necessary hard work to truly fix all its problems?
Is it appropriate for our country’s main broadcasting company to assist the police in manipulating public opinion rather than truly regaining the public’s trust by successfully apprehending and prosecuting criminals, regardless of their victims? Or should it maintain a neutral stance and only intervene if there are additional failures or to examine the steps taken to address the deep-seated issues within the organization? Did we witness a necessary correction to the shocking news headlines or a cover-up? It is difficult to determine.
The BBC One program, “The Met: Policing London,” can be viewed on iPlayer.