Over the coming days we will see the Metropolitan Police at its very best. As the world descends on London for the coronation of King Charles, the force will execute a plan that has been decades in the making. As the past year has shown, there are few tasks the Met excels at more than protecting the public and dignitaries when the capital hosts huge occasions of state.
Meanwhile, the day-to-day policing of London goes on – and it is here that the Met’s difficulties start. It is now eight months since Sir Mark Rowley started his term of office as commissioner of the force. He has started to make progress on standards and conduct within it, unearthing more rotten apples along the way. However, as he well knows, neither that nor the successful policing of the coronation will be nearly enough.
Despite the Met’s belated success in dealing with protestors ‘slow-walking’ on London’s roads and bridges, Westminster has over recent weeks experienced days of serious disruption from groups including Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion. Also, most troublingly, too little appears to have changed when it comes to the practical business of fighting crime and disorder.
Last week the commissioner appeared before the Home Affairs select committee. It was his first testimony there following the publication of Baroness Casey’s excoriating review of our largest police force. The hearing was far from a success, with one exchange between Rowley and MP Lee Anderson going viral.
There will be many inside the Met who will be telling Sir Mark that his combative response was just what was required. But in reality the commissioner’s performance was very far from ideal.
Whether Sir Mark likes it or not, Commons select committee members are there to ask questions, articulate their judgements and hold public officials to account.