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Overhaul in response to Port murders under way, says Met Commissioner

Supervision and leadership of senior officers is being overhauled following the Port case.

A major overhaul of how the Metropolitan Police investigates serious crimes and unexplained deaths is under way following the inquiry into multiple murderer Stephen Port.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told London Assembly members that had early inquiries been conducted better, three of the victims of Stephen Port could have been saved.

“It is a matter of deep regret that we did not do a better job,” she said. “I’m very proud of the vast majority of my people. This was not good and we need to improve.”

She was giving evidence in her monthly meeting with the GLA following the inquests into the four men killed by Port which exposed “fundamental failings” in the investigation by the Met.

It revealed officers failed to carry out basic checks and missed opportunities to catch the serial killer.

Port was sentenced to life in 2016 for the rape and murder of four men in East London.

The Commissioner revealed the force has already moved to act on issues raised in inquiry evidence which had heard from officers involved that they were overstretched and under-supported.

Department structures have been reorganised on geographic lines and processes for communication between uniform and specialist officers had been improved.

A new IT system, Connect, now gives reviewing officers a checklist which highlights where procedures have not been followed.

And guidance on unexplained deaths has also been updated.

The 12 Borough Command Unit leads, who replaced the 32 borough commanders, have also been challenged on how prioritising decisions are being made.

Dame Cressida stopped short of accepting a criticism from the families and friends of the victims that the force was institutionally homophobic but she did say the force is now working to become “fully culturally competent”.

“We saw some significant flaws in supervision and leadership. I’d say there were some supervisor and individual failures. They combined to create this terrible set of circumstances,” she said.

The Commissioner was challenged by committee members, including Green Party member Caroline Russell over the force’s relationship with LGBTQ+ communities.

Ms Hall wanted to know what improvements had been made, including awareness of chemsex which involves the use of the illegal drug GHB and has been linked to multiple serious assaults.

Dame Cressida said the Met now had a large cohort of officers who are LGBTQ+ advisers.

“They have been helping us very substantially both in engaging with communities but also with our training. Our Met Network members are attending every training course to advise how to work effectively with communities,” she said.

A critical issue raised by the Port case was how investigating officers had treated partners and other people who were close to the victims and had crucial information that was missed.

The Commissioner said “clumsy phrases in guidance” on family definition and next of kin procedures had now been changed.

The Commissioner said: “Our officers are far, far more knowlegable than they were then.”

But the force wasn’t the only organisation to be challenged.

Serious questions were raised on how the Met and MOPAC were engaging with the capital’s LGBTQ+ community.

Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem) highlighted that the new crime plan for London made only two references to LGBTQ+ people.

Deputy Mayor for Policing, Sophie Linden, told the committee: “I think that’s a fair challenge to ask us on what we are doing to engage with the community."

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is now re-reviewing its investigation into the Met’s handling of the case. They are now under pressure to give their conclusions.

Committee Chair Hall said: “Asking the IOPC to get a move on is always a good idea.”

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