The revelations come ahead of what is expected to be a damning report into the culture of the country’s largest police force.
The review led by Baroness Louise Casey, commissioned following the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, will accuse the force of racism, sexism, homophobia and failing to change despite repeating warnings, according to reports.
Alice Vinten, who spent 11 years in the Met as a frontline police officer on response teams and also worked in the intelligence unit, said the culture in the force needs to be completely reformed.
She experienced sexism during her career but was too afraid to speak out. She admits that she underplayed the seriousness of what she faced because she was “institutionalised”.
“I got the low-level stuff, which I just thought was a bit annoying. Now, I look back and I think that was more than annoying,” she told i.
“I was shown hardcore pornography when I was on a carrier into London. I was the only female on the carrier and it was shoved in my face. I’ve had silly things, like when you’re eating a banana in the canteen, someone was making jokes about oral sex.”
Ms Vinten, who left the Met for family reasons in 2015, said male officers would discuss a female colleague as the “team bike” and that they would make comments about how “fit” new starters were.
“In the summer, they would sometimes put up on the radio the location of attractive women who weren’t wearing very much. I think you look around you and you think no one else is making a fuss about this, is anyone else uncomfortable? You are seen as a weary complainer if you say anything about it.”
She said she was “conditioned” to go along with the culture but regrets not speaking out at the time.
“But then, to be honest, most women have to choose between speaking out and having a career, because essentially when you do speak out, a lot of the time your career is over,” she said.
Ms Vinten, now an author, recalls being described as a “maternity case” by a superior when she applied for an office-based role after becoming a mother.
“He was heard referring to me as a maternity case and saying he hoped I didn’t get the job because I was part-time. He coincidentally was later found guilty of possessing indecent images of children.
“If you root out the people who make what are seen as harmless comments, then you root out the real predators because there aren’t real predators that don’t also have these sexist views.”
The Casey Review
What is the Casey Review?
The Baroness Casey Review has independently investigated the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service.
It was commissioned in the wake of widespread public concern after Wayne Couzens killed Sarah Everard while he was a serving officer.
What has the review found so far?
In October 2022, an interim report found the Met takes too long to resolve misconduct cases, officers and staff do not believe action will be taken when conduct concerns are raised and that sexual misconduct allegations are less likely than other misconduct claims to result in a ‘case to answer’ decision.
It also found officers with repeated patterns of unacceptable behaviour do not face discipline and that there is racial disparity in the misconduct system.
When will the final report be published?
The final report, which will be published on Tuesday 21 March, will recommend how the Met can meet high standards and how public trust can be restored.
According to The Guardian, the review contains case studies with findings dubbed “atrocious” for the Met and states that the force has failed to change despite numerous official reviews urging it to do so.
It is expected to say clues about the dangers posed by Couzens and serial rapist David Carrick, who committed crimes while he was a Met officer, were missed.
It may criticise the past leadership of the Met.
The Casey Review team has said it will not be commenting on the contents of the report ahead of publication.
“We would like to remind everyone that the report was commissioned in the light of the appalling facts relating to the murderer of Sarah Everard,” the team said. “This must be remembered if at all possible as we move towards its publication.”
Ms Vinten hopes the Casey report will recommend more education for officers, with women invited in to talk about misogyny.
She said: “To talk about how you can be an active bystander, to talk about unconscious bias – that kind of stuff really needs to be drilled into new recruits and drilled into current recruits who may not realise how their language affects their female colleagues.”
She called for a dedicated phone line for officers to report their colleagues’ behaviour.
“I’d like to see a number specifically for reporting sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexist behaviour, specifically for women to be able to call anonymously if needs be. There needs to be a line for women who are in the Met who are complaining about their colleagues and that needs to be treated very confidentially.”
This, she hopes, will enable women to feel they can speak out.
The Met set up a new anti-corruption hotline late last year to allow the public to report rogue officers and police staff but there is no special phoneline for those who want to report their colleagues.
Ms Vinten continued: “We see they call themselves the police family, they will do anything to protect their colleagues. When you do report on someone, even if this person is a complete wrong ‘un, you still get ostracised, your career is still affected.
“It follows you round for years and that needs to be turned on its head. People need to be celebrated for improving the police by getting these people out, they need to be encouraged and protected.
“I think if these things are put in place to protect women while they’re in the police, I think more women will want to join.
“We are not going to lose anything by having a force that is 50-50 [female and male officers].”
Ms Vinten also called for all recruits to undergo a “double vetting” process and for more officers under investigation to be suspended immediately.
“They need to have their power taken away as soon as there’s an allegation. They get put on desk duties, that needs to stop happening because you’re still a police officer, you’ve still got power outside of work to do whatever you want with your warrant card. There needs to be more suspensions and not so much desk duty, especially for anything to do with violence against women and girls, sexual harassment.”
The Met said it could not respond to Ms Vinten’s claims directly without more specific details.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Millichap, the Met’s lead on violence against women and girls, earlier said: “We want to make London a safe city for women and girls. Every day we are out tackling violence and abuse and arresting predatory men. We are using the same specialist tactics and technology to identify and bring more offenders to justice as we do for other serious crime. We are working closely with partners and any whose expertise can help to improve the response and support women and girls get.
“We know we have much more to do and we are working hard to improve so that women and girls feel safe, and have confidence in our service to them.
“This must start with us.
“We recognise identifying and bringing to justice those in the Met who corrupt our integrity by committing abuses against women and girls is vital in rebuilding the trust of our communities and increasing reporting.
“We have taken important steps towards this. We have the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Offences (DASO) Unit staffed by experienced officers with a background in investigating domestic abuse and sexual violence, who now are using those skills to investigate allegations made against serving officers and staff, and a focus on victim-survivor care.
“We have a new Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command, with detectives who are bringing the same investigative approach to identifying wrongdoing in our ranks as we do to identifying organised criminality. We launched the first ever public appeal line – the Crimestoppers Police Integrity Hotline to make it easier for the public to report officers of concern, an initiative now planned for rollout nationally.
“We recognise there is far more work to be done to effectively tackle all types of violence against women and girls and to gain trust.
“In spring we will publish a new and refreshed Met Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Action Plan, which will build on feedback and progress made since our initial plan. We are committed to progressing this work in partnership and by listening.
“If you are a victim-survivor of this type of abuse, including by an alleged police perpetrator, you will be listened to and supported by the Met and specialist support services, with respect and dignity. Allegations will be investigated fully, whoever the suspect.”