The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dame Cressida Dick, has admitted «there is much more to be done» to improve public trust in the force.
Her comments, which included a stated ambition to increase the number of black officers in the Met, follows criticism from the mother of two black women who were stabbed to death in a park in June. Mina Smallman believes the force «made assumptions» about her daughters and was slow to investigate when Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, were reported missing.
The pair had been celebrating Ms Henry’s birthday with a picnic at Fryent Country Park in Wembley, north-west London. «They looked at my daughter’s address and thought they knew who she was. A black woman who lives on a council estate,» Mrs Smallman said. The sisters were found after a search organised by their family and friends, rather than a police-orchestrated one.
Two police officers are also being investigated over allegations they took and shared photographs of themselves with the women’s bodies when they should have been securing the scene.
Dame Cressida said: «The Met is not free of discrimination, racism or bias. I have always acknowledged that and do now again. «In the Met we have zero tolerance of racism. My job is to continue to try to eliminate any such racism and discrimination, however it appears. «My top two operational priorities are reducing violence and increasing public confidence in the Met, particularly the confidence of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. «I am sure that will be good for all Londoners and it will help us achieve our mission of making the Met the most trusted police service in the world.»
Mrs Smallman, an equalities activist and retired archdeacon, said: «Just two Sundays ago, it was my first Mother’s Day without my girls. «And we were destroyed. You know, there’s two sides to me, there’s the mum. And then there’s someone who’s always stood up for people who are not treated fairly. «As ‘mum’ I am broken. I am broken beyond words. «It’s hard to maintain that focus of trying, wanting some good to come out of it, something to be learned, something to be different in the future. «That’s what gives me purpose — if their lives make a change in the way women are viewed, and black women in particular. «Because in the pecking order of things we are the lowest on the ladder.»
Dame Cressida said: «Our thoughts remain with the families of Bibaa and Nicole following their unspeakable loss. «As part of a wider investigation into various matters, the Independent Office for Police Conduct is considering the actions of police when Bibaa and Nicole were reported missing. «This follows a referral from the MPS’s (Met Police Service’s) Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS). «One officer, based at the North West Command, has been advised they are under investigation. This officer is not suspended or on restricted duties.»
A 19-year-old from Greenwich, south east London, has been charged with murdering the sisters. He has pleaded not guilty and is due to appear for trial on 7 June.