sun 14/08/2022

The Met: Policing London, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Met: Policing London, BBC One

The Met: Policing London, BBC One

Is this documentary just telling us what the Bill want us to hear?

Keep 'em peeled: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on parade

This is supposed to be a major five-part documentary series probing into the innards of the Metropolitan Police, but it felt suspiciously like W1A in uniform. Was it the muted but insistently ominous background music, always trying to tell us that something really significant was happening when we were just watching yet another slab of b-roll footage? Or the dry, earnest voice-over, intoning that "this is a force under pressure"?

Above all, maybe it was the way that gatherings of high-level officers might equally have a been a BBC strategy meeting. When the Met's Head of Communications started talking about "feedback from stakeholders", we had undeniably journeyed beyond parody.

This didn't say a lot about the Met other than that they have a difficult job to do

The voice-over also reminded us that the Met is "seen by some in the community as the enemy", and at the core of the programme (which was filmed over the course of a year) was the aftermath of the shooting of Mark Duggan by armed officers in Tottenham in 2011. We watched while top cops like Assistant Commissioners Martin Hewitt and Mark Rowley braced themselves for last year's inquest verdict on the Duggan killing, looking, frankly, extremely nervous. "There is a challenging history of our relationship with the black community," said Hewitt (who commanded the team who shot Duggan), with majestic understatement.

It was Rowley who had to go out and make a statement after a verdict of lawful killing had been returned, though it was impossible to hear a word he was saying under the furious screams of abuse from Duggan's supporters, mostly along the lines of "lying racist murdering scum". But, difficult as Rowley's task had been, it was much worse for Chief Super Victor Olisa (pictured below), who became borough commander of Haringey in 2013. Olisa's previous posting had been in Bexley, one of the safest boroughs in London, and by comparison Haringey must have felt like being parachuted into the doomed Dien Bien Phu just before it fell to the Vietnamese. 

Olisa had prepared for the Duggan verdict by summoning a gathering of "prominent community leaders" – maybe the Met, not to mention the BBC, might make a tiny bit of headway if they made some effort to use language that wasn't fourth-hand Brentspeak pre-drained of all meaning – but none of them could understand how the jury had decided that Duggan wasn't holding a gun when he was shot, yet had been killed lawfully.

Olisa seemed to be an uncomplicated, straight-talking chap who was brave enough to discuss the fact that many Haringey locals assumed he'd only been posted there because he was black, with the implication that he was therefore just a bit of patronising window dressing sent by Met Central Casting. Actually they probably have a point – though as Met supremo Bernard Hogan-Howe argued, the force are also damned when they don't appoint black officers to key jobs – but Olisa fronted up and went out to face the raging crowds surging in the streets, which was not a job for the faint-hearted.

But in the end, despite some dramatic scenes – and some very undramatic ones, like an anticlimactic day out with an armed response unit – this didn't say a lot about the Met other than that they have a difficult job to do and are stressed out and under-resourced. Every police force in every major city in the world probably says the same thing. You also know Hogan-Howe's heroes wouldn't have let the cameras in if they didn't think they were going to get some useful PR and political leverage out of it. So you might ask whether it really qualifies as a documentary at all.

It was impossible to hear a word he was saying under the furious screams of abuse from Duggan's supporters, mostly along the lines of 'lying racist murdering scum'

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Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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