Policing Minister Encourages Women To "Call 999" If They Doubt An Officer After Sarah Everard Murder
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has rejected calls for Met commissioner Cressida Dick should resign after the murder of Sarah Everard (Alamy)
It is "perfectly reasonable" for anyone approached by a lone officer to call 999 to verify who they were after the murder of Sarah Everard, the policing minister has said.
“I'm afraid that's where we've got to”, Kit Malthouse said, after serving Met officer Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole life term in prison yesterday for raping and killing the 33-year-old, having used his warrant card and police-issued handcuffs to kidnap her from a London street.
Speaking to Sky News, Malthouse said most officers do not patrol on their own, but gave advice on what people should do if they are approached.
“If anybody has any doubts about a police officer, then obviously they should question the officer about what they're doing and why they're doing it," he explained.
“If there are any doubts at all, they should ask to either speak to the control room using the officer’s radio, or if in doubt, call 999 and ask a question.”
Asked what kind of society we had become if people had to call 999 to verify if a police officer was who they say they were, Malthouse said the “devastating consequence” of Couzens' actions is to undermine the good work of thousands of officers across the country.
“But these kinds of stories do raise question marks in people's minds,” the minister added.
“I can understand, particularly given the circumstances, and I think it would be perfectly reasonable in similar circumstances for somebody to question the officer and seek reassurance.
“If that means asking them to identify themselves by speaking to the control room, or calling 999 If they feel in danger, then I'm afraid that's where we've got to.”
He said the Met recognises Couzens’ actions have “struck a devastating blow to the confidence that people have in police officers”, particularly in the capital.
Malthouse said there would be important lessons to learn, but rejected calls from Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities committee, and senior Labour MP Harriet Harman in calling for Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign.
"She is a dedicated and talented and committed police officer who is driving the Metropolitan Police to ever greater standards of care and improvement and fighting crime,” he told Sky.
Jess Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said trust is "not going to be built back overnight”, but will require government and police forces taking “violence against women and girls, and the complaints that women make day in, day out, seriously”.
The Labour MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is a conversation where women have been saying for some time, even before the death of Sarah Everard, that they don't feel that they are trusted by the police when they speak up or that violence and crime against them is prioritised."
Phillips said it should be given the same resources as tackling crimes like terrorism and county lines gangs, adding: "The seriousness of this crime should never be underestimated.
"Domestic abuse is like domestic terrorism. Rape and sexual violence cases, again and again, being turned away. I don't want to hear about pieces of paper and strategies written. I want to see action, where this actually changes."
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