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“National debate needed” on monitoring officers’ phones

Random or with cause checks being considered as part of Met's response to Operation Hotton

The Met is considering whether it should have the ability to review the personal phones and social media accounts of officers and staff “on a random of with cause” basis as part of its response to the IOPC’s Operation Hotton findings based around Charing Cross Police Station,

It says the use of phones and social media is one of “two critical policy issues that require urgent attention” and in need of a national debate across policing.

The other priority it says is to deal with “frustrations” with the misconduct process which it says takes too long and “too little account of public trust and confidence.” The Met is now seeking to lead from London discussions to “achieve change in a national system.”

Previous suggestions for ad hoc examination of officers’ phones and social media accounts have been strongly criticised by the Police Federation as a draconian measure.

The Met made the proposals as part of its official response to the Hotton report today when it announced its had accepted all 15 of the IOPC’s recommendations.

The report published in February found inappropriate behaviour by officers, including, racism, misogyny, harassment and the exchange of offensive social media messages.

It followed nine linked investigations focused on teams formed to tackle crime and disorder in the Westminster area.

The Met said it had taken action before the report was published to address the behaviour including the creation of a new team of 50 investigators within the DPS focused on the investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse by officers and staff.

It also says a new dedicated Chief Inspector has been appointed to lead a new proactive team responsible for neighbourhood policing in the West End to ensure scrutiny and improved leadership

In a statement the Met said: “We are seeking to work with City Hall and the Home Office to explore jointly, and with partners across policing, two critical policy issues that we believe require urgent attention.

“To address frustrations that the misconduct process, for all its careful construction after extensive consultation, takes too long and takes too little account of the importance of public trust and confidence. We do not under-estimate the challenge of achieving change in a national system, but a wide debate is needed and one we will seek to lead from London.

“Whether we should have the ability to review the personal phone and social media accounts of officers and staff - on a random or with cause basis - to assess whether they are expressing inappropriate views which may undermine their ability to be a police officer, or which could undermine public trust and confidence. This is a contested and complex area, but is again one in need of a national debate.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bas Javid, said: "While the team involved in this case was disbanded a number of years before the report was published, and the IOPC has recognised that we have already taken steps to improve our culture and standards, it's clear we still have a large amount of work to do.

"The recommendations are wide ranging and we will use them, along with our existing rebuilding trust plan and our strategy for inclusion, diversity and engagement, to drive forward lasting change that will help improve the public's confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service."

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem described the MPS response as an important step towards recovering public trust and confidence.

“We welcome the Met’s full acceptance of our recommendations and the programme of work it has announced to create a better working environment and improve the service for the communities it serves in London. In particular, we are pleased that the MPS has agreed to embed a zero-tolerance position on racism, misogyny, bullying and harassment within its policies and training, and will adopt that terminology.”

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