LONDON — The elite Metropolitan Police unit that provides U.K. lawmakers and diplomats with armed protection has received hundreds of complaints about the conduct of its officers in the last three years.
In response to a freedom of information request by POLITICO, the Met said officers from the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP) unit had received 439 complaints in 2020, 2021 and 2022, including a total of 264 by members of the public.
The unit has been in the spotlight since one of its officers, Wayne Couzens, was convicted of raping and murdering Sarah Everard in 2021, and another serial rapist, David Carrick, was jailed earlier this year. It comes after a review of the wider force found it was institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic, with the PaDP singled out for particular condemnation.
A separate review of the unit launched in 2021 and led by former West Yorkshire Police Chief Dee Collins is ongoing.
The Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Unit is made up of nearly 1,000 armed and unarmed officers, and is responsible for patrolling and controlling access to the Palace of Westminster, New Scotland Yard and Downing Street, and providing armed protection for diplomatic missions, embassies and consulates.
It was heavily criticized last month by peer Louise Casey in the blistering report about the Met Police, which was commissioned after Couzens’ sentencing.
The former top civil servant described the unit as a “dark corner” of the Met where there are “limited opportunities to shine light on attitudes or behaviours.”
She said the unit, which has only 10 percent female officers and staff, had a culture of bullying and inappropriate comments disguised as “banter.”
Hundreds of complaints from public
Of the 133 complaints made last year, 72 were by members of the public. Eleven individuals had more than one internal conduct complaint against them, and five had more than one public complaint made against them.
In 2021 — when there were 196 complaints — 111 were from the public; nine individuals had more than one internal complaint against them, with 23 arising externally.
The previous year, there were a total of 110 complaints, 29 for internal conduct and 81 from the public. Nine individuals had more than one conduct complaint against them and 20 had more than one public complaint.
Caroline Nokes said the Met had a “massive job” to restore trust and confidence | Leon Neal/Getty Images
The Met said that in some cases, complaints shown in these figures may have been from before officers worked for the PaDP if there was a delay in reporting.
Caroline Nokes, the chair of the House of Commons women and equalities committee, told POLITICO that the Met had a “massive job” to restore trust and confidence and needed to start by “making sure complaints were addressed robustly and quickly.”
She added: “Louise Casey identified this was a unit where there were issues and these statistics back that up.”
‘Defund the police’
A former home office minister who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the figures as “appalling,” and called for every one of the officers with complaints to be removed from elite duties and lose their firearms while fully investigated.
The Tory MP added: “These are supposed to be the best of the best, protecting palaces, ambassadors and parliament.
“I understand why people want to defund the police. They are preying on people and laughing as they get away with it. I am ashamed to say the government has helped create a toxic environment where the public need protecting from a system and police forces that actively protect corrupt police officers.”
Shadow Leader of the House Thangam Debbonaire called the figures “shocking,” describing them as “yet more evidence that the significant problems found across the Metropolitan Police are also present in the PaDP.”
Debbonaire added: “Labour wants to see improved standards on vetting, checks and misconduct so that those officers who are unsuitable for deployment on the parliamentary estate, or anywhere else, are dealt with appropriately.”
A Met Police spokesperson told POLITICO the review into the unit was ongoing. They added: “This oversight group will bring external perspective and challenge to this important review.”
A spokesperson for parliament said: “The PaDP Command of the Metropolitan Police are our partners in protecting all those who work at or visit parliament, and it is essential that we have confidence in their culture, behaviors and professional standards. We continue to be in close contact with the Met leadership to seek assurance that those who protect parliament and the public are fit to serve.”