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Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service

Sir Mark Rowley is the current Metropolitan Police commissioner. But what does his role involve?

Sir Mark Rowley, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service
Sir Mark Rowley is the Metropolitan Police commissioner. He replaced Sir Stephen House, who had acted as interim commissioner following the departure of Dame Cressida Dick.

What is the role of the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service?

The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is the head of the MPS, London’s police force (also known as “the Met”). The commissioner is responsible for the “direction and control” of the staff of the MPS. 

Who is the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service?

Sir Mark Rowley is the current Metropolitan Police Commissioner, having assumed the position on 12 September 2022. He replaced Sir Stephen House, who had acted as interim commissioner following the departure of Dame Cressida Dick. 49 Home Office, ‘Sir Mark Rowley announced as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police’, 8 July 2022, retrieved 13 November 2023, www.gov.uk/government/news/sir-mark-rowley-announced-as-commissioner-of-the-metropolitan-police

Rowley joined the police in 1987, serving first with the West Midlands Police, and later joining Surrey Police, where he was Chief Constable between 2008 and 2011. 50 A profile of the new Met Police Commissioner’, Evening Standard, 8 July 2022, retrieved 10 October 2023, www.standard.co.uk/news/london/mark-rowley-new-metropolitan-police-commissioner-cv-profile-london-crime-b1011163.html  He went on to become an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police in 2011, and was head of national counter terrorism from 2014 until he retired in 2018. In 2022 he returned to policing as commissioner of the Met.

Who appoints the commissioner?

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, passed when Theresa May was home secretary, the commissioner is formally appointed by the King on the recommendation of the home secretary (currently James Cleverly). In practice, this means they are appointed by the home secretary.

When making their recommendations, the home secretary must take into account any recommendations from the mayor of London. Before Rowley’s appointment, then home secretary Priti Patel said that the new commissioner must tackle “policing culture and conduct”. The mayor said that he would “not support the appointment of a new commissioner unless they can clearly demonstrate that they understand the scale of the cultural problems within the Met and the urgency with which they must be addressed." 51 New Met boss must have robust plan on culture problems’, 13 February 2022, retrieved 13 October 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-60365947

Only those who have served as a police officer somewhere in the UK can be appointed as commissioner.

Who is the commissioner accountable to?

The commissioner is accountable to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which is headed by the mayor of London and run by the deputy mayor for policing and crime (currently Sophie Linden). 52 Mayor of London, ‘About the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)’, (no date), retrieved 13 November 2023, www.london.gov.uk/programmes-strategies/mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/about-mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac   The deputy mayor holds the commissioner accountable for the actions of people under the commissioner’s control, the effectiveness of policing and the management of the Metropolitan Police’s budget.

The commissioner also reports to the home secretary for those matters where the Metropolitan Police has a national responsibility. 53 Metropolitan Police, ‘Governance’, www.met.police.uk/police-forces/metropolitan-police/areas/about-us/about-the-met/governance

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 abolished the Metropolitan Police Authority, the previous body responsible for overseeing the Commissioner and the Metropolitan Police.

Can the commissioner be dismissed?

The home secretary can suspend the commissioner or call on them to resign. The mayor of London, with the approval of the home secretary, can also suspend the commissioner or call on them to resign. 54 Home Office, 24 August 2022, retrieved 13 November 2023, www.gov.uk/government/publications/commissioner-accountability-review/special-commission-on-the-resignation-of-the-commissioner-of-police-of-the-metr…

Before doing so, the mayor must give the commissioner a written explanation of why they want the commissioner to resign. They must give the commissioner the opportunity to respond to this explanation, and take into account the response. 

In February 2022, Dame Cressida Dick chose to resign before this process formally began, after Khan had signalled he had lost confidence in her leadership. This followed a report by the police watchdog which found cases of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment at Charing Cross police station in central London. 55 BBC News, ‘London mayor puts Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on notice’, 2 February 2022, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-60236588

What issues does Rowley face in the Met?

In March 2023, seven months after Sir Mark Rowley became commissioner, Baroness Louise Casey published her review into the Met’s standards of behaviour and culture. Casey’s report found “widespread bullying, discrimination, institutional homophobia, misogyny and racism” within the Met and was critical of the internal misconduct process. 56 Baroness Casey of Blackstone, Final Report, p.20, March 2023, www.met.police.uk/SysSiteAssets/media/downloads/met/about-us/baroness-casey-review/update-march-2023/baroness-casey-review-march-2023a.pdf

Rowley has repeatedly stated his aim to restore standards and trust in the Met. 57 Home Office, ‘Sir Mark Rowley announced as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police’, 8 July 2022, retrieved 13 November 2023, www.gov.uk/government/news/sir-mark-rowley-announced-as-commissioner-of-the-metropolitan-police 58 More Trust, Less Crime and High Standards’, (no date), retrieved 13 November 2023, www.met.police.uk/notices/met/the-turnaround-plan-more-trust-less-crime-and-high-standards  Some measures that Rowley has publicly suggested include greater powers to sack officers following misconduct proceedings, and greater policing focus on communities. 59 Cancer at Met Police still needs cutting out’, BBC News, 12 September 2023, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-66773782

In recent months, Rowley has continued to face scrutiny on the standards of the Metropolitan Police, with controversies including: 

  • Damages paid to two women arrested following the vigil for Sarah Everard 60 Topping A and Dodd V, ‘Met police pay damages to women arrested at Sarah Everard vigil’, The Guardian, 14 September 2023, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/sep/14/met-police-pays-damages-to-women-arrested-at-sarah-everard-vigil
  • The announcement that 1,000 serving Metropolitan Police officers were facing disciplinary action 61 Mackintonsh T and Cooney C, ‘1,000 Met Police officers suspended or on restricted duties’, BBC News, 19 September 2023, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-66842521
  • The stepping back of nearly 300 armed officers from duty following the decision to charge an officer with the murder of Chris Kaba 62 Army stood down as armed Met Police officers return to duty’, BBC News, 25 September 2023, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-66909729
  • The sacking of two Metropolitan officers for gross misconduct following allegations of racial profiling in the stop and search of two athletes in 2020 63 Two Met officers sacked over athlete search gross misconduct’, BBC News, 25 October 2023, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-67214409
  • Criticism for perceived inaction in regards to demonstrations about the war in Gaza 64 Row over Suella Braverman’s claim of police bias’, BBC News, 9 November 2023, retrieved 10 November 2023, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-67364745

 

Position
Home secretary
Department
Home Office
Publisher
Institute for Government

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