Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, who heads up the Hackney and Tower Hamlets borough command, admitted the standing of the organisation had taken a hit in recent weeks – but he remained resolutely proud to be a police officer.
Det Chief Supt Barnett received an honorary doctorate in criminology from the University of East London at a ceremony at ExCeL London on Thursday, 25 November, and gave an impassioned defence of the Met's values and his colleagues' sense of public duty.
He told students, "Police officers put themselves in harm's way every day. They keep the Queen's peace. They are first to respond to a life in crisis. We are on hand every second of every day. There's no let-up. There's no turning away from the challenges, always acting, always stepping forward often when others might retreat.
"I have always been proud to be a police officer. For me it's the best job in the world."
But, he said, "occasionally things can go wrong. Policing is not an exact science. It is a job made up of ordinary people. Sadly, and rarely, some of those let us down. We have been let down recently and I've seen in the media how it's has played out over the tragic death of Sarah Everard."
In September, serving Met officer Wayne Couzens was jailed for life for the kidnap, rape and murder of the 33-year-old South London marketing executive.
Det Chief Supt Barnett said, "Those horrendous events have rocked me and rocked many people in our organisation. And there's no doubt that such events impact on the trust people have in us and we are clear that what happened was a massive diversion away from our values.
"Our values are clear; they were set in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel our founder. Sir Robert's vision still holds firm today and, despite modern day challenges, the UK policing order remains largely the same: we police with the consent of the people. What we do, at heart, is still community based.
"As Peel famously said, the police are the public and the public are the police. And it is so true. The role of policing is just one element of society, and community safety is in all of our interests. Arguably it has never been more important for communities to come together, to connect and to be cohesive."
Det Chief Supt Barnett recounted a career that had seen him tackle criminal drugs gangs, plan security for the 2012 London Olympics as well as championing equality and diversity in the Met.
And he reflected on his role policing the vibrant and challenging twin East London boroughs.
He said, "Being the BCU Commander is the greatest of all my jobs – no doubt – and being back serving communities and leading the next generation of policing is a joy and where I want to be."
Saying "there is nothing special about me", he told graduates he had risen through the ranks through hard work, determination and a love of his job.
He said, "Whatever you do in life, do it with great conviction, courage, conviction, passion and with a caring heart."