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How do you restore the reputation of an organisation once it’s been shattered?

By Dafydd Rees
31 January 2023
Corporate Reputation
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

The challenge facing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

By Dafydd Rees

Restoring reputation is the greatest corporate challenge. Scan the news headlines and you’ll see plenty of reasons why.

Over the weekend at Westminster, the Prime Minister’s promise to restore high standards in public office has been derailed again, this time by the departure of former Tory Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi, who broke the ministerial code on multiple occasions.   

This morning in Wales, the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union following allegations of a toxic, bullying culture within the sport’s governing body has resulted in a pledge from his successor that now is the time for, “a compelling argument for change.”   

In the USA, following the shocking brutality displayed by Memphis Police in beating Tyre Nichols to death, President Biden is making the case for changes in the law which would grant new powers for the Justice Department to investigate police bias and misconduct.

Here in Britain, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, is promising to address the culture of violence and abuse within his own force.

Facing up to the truth is one of the key elements of any effective leadership. Sir Mark, who took office just a few months ago, has stated that he is determined to confront the issue head on.

Saying sorry is another. The Commissioner’s frank admission of mistakes made and failures to bring to justice PC David Carrick over a period of two decades is another essential prerequisite to change.,

Carrick, who it is now clear is one of Britain’s most prolific rapists, used his position as a serving police officer to gain the trust of his victims. Nine opportunities to stop this individual were missed over a 17-year period, until his arrest in October 2021. One of his victims, a fellow police officer, has said the Met’s “very male-dominated culture” left her feeling she would not be believed.

Action and accountability are vital to restoring an institution’s reputation, as is establishing the facts. Sir Mark Rowley has made it clear he will be judged by the progress he makes. The Metropolitan Police is to review the cases of more than a thousand serving officers and staff who face complaints relating to domestic abuse and sex offending.

A recent review found that a majority of misconduct allegations made against Met officers resulted in a decision of no case to answer. Baroness Casey’s report also identified systemic racial bias in internal police processes and systems.

Good governance requires clear rules and oversight as well as ongoing training and education. Whistleblowers need to feel that they can be safe and secure. Any internal escalation process needs to be well understood and subject to external audit.

But, in my view, it comes down to the determination of those in charge and the personal accountability of all those within any work or office culture to make that critical difference.   

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has promised that more information is to follow in the coming weeks. We are told to expect that two to three Met police officers will face criminal court appearances every week. The reality is that dealing with abusive predators is necessarily a prolonged and painful process.

Being honest about that fact is part of the solution. But doing what you say counts for even more.