Discrimination faced by disabled staff within the Metropolitan police has become “baked into the system”, a review of the force’s culture and standards has found.
But despite multiple findings of disability discrimination, the report by the crossbench peer Baroness [Louise] Casey does not find there is institutional disablism within the Met, despite concluding there is institutional racism, sexism and homophobia.
The report describes a “bullying culture” in which discriminatory acts are “tolerated, ignored, or dismissed as ‘banter’” within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
The review found one in three (33 per cent) disabled members of staff had experienced bullying, compared with 30 per cent of LGBTQ+ staff, 36 per cent of Asian staff and 35 per cent of Black staff.
Claims for disability discrimination were by far the most frequent type brought against the Met, the review found following a year-long investigation.
Of employment tribunal claims brought against the Met between 2017-18 and 2021-22, 358 were related to disability discrimination, compared with 219 related to race and 131 related to sex discrimination.
The report says the number of employment tribunal claims brought by disabled people was “striking” and that the force “has not shown sufficient curiosity as to why this apparent pattern has emerged, and what if anything they could learn from it”, which was “a source of frustration” to disabled people working in the Met.
One disabled member of staff said: “When your face doesn’t fit, a line manager will use every possible tactic to get rid of you.
“So your work life becomes a constant battle to keep your job (frequently to higher standards than able-bodied staff) whilst discrimination and processes are used against you.”
Another said: “There is an attitude in the Met about people with disabilities, especially hidden ones, being lazy, and it destroys you.
“We do have a culture of bullying… People have questioned if you are really that ill why don’t you leave the job.”
Discrimination across groups protected under the Equality Act “is tolerated, not dealt with and has become baked into the system”, the report says.
It also says it is “highly likely” that the handling of disability-related misconduct allegations is unfair but the data collected by the force is not of high enough quality for this to be proved.
When it comes to staff grievances, a higher proportion relate to disability discrimination (eight per cent) than race (six per cent) and sex discrimination (three per cent).
An autistic detective in the Met who was bullied out of her dream job by the “toxic and discriminatory” actions of her managers told Disability News Service this week that she believed the Met was a disablist institution.
Mia*, who also has a long-term health condition, is taking the force to an employment tribunal for disability, race and sex discrimination.
She said: “The Met is definitely a disablist organisation from what I’ve experienced when I disclosed about my neurodivergence, how it impacts me and requiring reasonable adjustments.
“I was refused reasonable adjustments and was given no agency/decision-making power in what I needed. Decisions were made without including my views.
“I am disappointed that the review hasn’t gone more thoroughly into this aspect of discrimination, but I hope that the report now opens up a chance to look into and investigate disability discrimination and [other forms of discrimination not mentioned in the report].”
She is concerned that little attention has been paid by the media this week to the evidence in the report on disability discrimination.
She said: “My feelings are that even though it has come out, no-one is paying attention to it and no-one cares.
“I don’t know what it will take to change. The Met are not going to care and they will not do anything.”
Mia said nothing had changed in the force since the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report in 2016 into unlawful harassment, discrimination and victimisation of Met staff who made discrimination complaints, which found “significant weaknesses” in handling those complaints.
She said: “This happens all the time, people just brush it off.
“Small things escalate, because if you have that kind of a mindset about people and you don’t believe them, you’re not likely to believe them as victims either.
“Why would they believe disabled victims [of crime]?”
Inclusion London, which co-authored a report 16 months ago that found the Met guilty of repeatedly failing disabled people who try to report disability-related hate crime, welcomed the Casey report.
It said the review matched its own findings, that disablism and issues relating to disablism “are not prioritised and there is no dedicated work being done in the MPS on this, with insufficient data to ensure these issues are addressed”.
That report, Poor Police Response, found police officers dismissing allegations of hate crime brought to them by disabled people, or downgrading them to anti-social behaviour, while it said some disabled people were mocked by police officers when they tried to report a crime.
Louise Holden, Inclusion London’s hate crime partnership project manager, said the review “makes for harrowing reading and rightly calls out racism, misogyny and homophobia” but “missed an opportunity to call out disablism”.
She said: “All forms of discrimination, abuse, bias and prejudice need to be called out and addressed if the Met are serious about rooting out the predators and abusers that are hiding in plain sight.”
She said there was a “thread” of disablism throughout the report, in the reports of discrimination, bullying, employment tribunals, grievances and “the appalling language used to describe disabled people”, which showed it had become “so much a part of the fabric”.
In a letter responding to the Casey report (PDF), the Met’s commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said it was “a powerful and persuasive call for urgent, deep rooted and long-lasting change”.
He apologised again for “the shortcomings in routine policing, supporting frontline officers and confronting discrimination”, but he has been criticised for refusing to accept that the force is institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.
He mentioned disabled people only in passing in his letter and not in relation to the discrimination faced by his disabled staff that was exposed by the review.
The Casey review had not responded by noon today (Thursday) to a request to comment on its failure to find the Met institutionally disablist.
*Not her real name
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…