UK appoints counterterror cop to head troubled London police
Mark Rowley, former head of Met’s counter-terrorism unit, to take helm after spate of scandals, including the kidnap, rape and murder of a stranger by an officer
LONDON — The British government on Friday announced a new head for the country’s biggest police force, ordering him to rebuild public trust after a spate of scandals.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Mark Rowley had been appointed as the next commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police.
Rowley, who was head of counterterrorism at the force between 2014 and 2018, becomes commissioner of Scotland Yard after a string of controversies undermined public confidence in the country’s largest police force. He will have the task of restoring the reputation of a force that was last month placed in “special measures” by the country’s police watchdog.
Patel called Rowley, a former head of the Met’s counter-terrorism unit, a “distinguished and exceptionally experienced police officer.”
But she said the commissioner’s job was “one of the most important and demanding jobs in policing,” particularly given the force’s recent “failings.”
“Rebuilding public trust and delivering on crime reduction must be his priority,” she said in a statement.
Rowley’s predecessor Cressida Dick quit in February after falling out with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said Dick wasn’t doing enough to tackle allegations of misogyny and racism in police ranks.
Rowley, 57, said he was “deeply honored” by the appointment, which puts him in charge of more than 43,000 police officers and staff, and a budget of £3.24 billion ($3.9 billion).
He promised to “fight crime with communities – not unilaterally dispense tactics.”
“Our mission is to lead the renewal of policing by consent, which has been so heavily dented in recent years as trust and confidence have fallen,” he said.
The Met polices a population of more than eight million people over 620 square miles (1,605 square kilometers) of Greater London.
Scotland Yard, as the force is also known, was last month placed in special supervision by a police watchdog body for failing to hit standards targets.
The force has been under intense pressure to reform since a serving police officer, Wayne Couzens, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a stranger, Sarah Everard, while she was walking home at night in London in 2021. The police force’s subsequent handling of vigils and protests against Everard’s slaying also came under heavy criticism.
Earlier this year, an investigation slammed a culture of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment at one London police station, Charing Cross.
The force has been criticized for the way it handled the case of two Black sisters murdered in a London park in 2020 — their bodies found by a family search party because police weren’t looking for them — and for failing to stop serial killer Stephen Port, who drugged and killed four young men he met online.
Rowley’s start date hasn’t been announced.
He vowed to be “ruthless in removing those who are corrupting our integrity”.
Rowley has more than 30 years’ experience and previously served as chief constable of Surrey Police in southeast England.
He joined the Met in 2011 and led its response to terror attacks in 2017, when a van smashed into pedestrians on London Bridge before three assailants went on a stabbing spree.
Eight people were killed and about 50 were hurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.