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The bar for sacking corrupt police officers must be lowered


3 min read

i recently visited a specialist violence against women and girls (VAWG), domestic abuse and stalking unit within the Metropolitan Police – the dedication of those officers was remarkable.

They are drowning in caseloads but they care deeply about victims and often go above and beyond. However, it is clear the work of exceptional officers like these is greatly undermined when we hear repeatedly that the bar for getting rid of corrupt and abusive officers remains too high. The very delayed review into police dismissals published earlier this year will go some way to fixing the problem, but it is not the panacea and in some ways fails to grasp the deep-seated cultural issue that many forces are grappling with when it comes to misogyny within their ranks.

For decades, the police have set the bar far too high for dismissals. I can’t think of any other organisation that would have tolerated a fraction of the behaviour uncovered over the past few years among serving police officers.

An officer with a worrying number of accusations cannot be ignored

Even now, new legislation rests on there being a criminal conviction for automatic dismissal. This remains problematic for rooting out officers accused of sexual offences and domestic abuse as hardly any perpetrators are charged, let alone convicted, of these crimes. Myths about women routinely making up false accusations may still drive an overwhelming number of “no case to answer” decisions.

Last year, the Met police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley made it clear they were reviewing nearly 1,700 historic allegations against serving police officers. It is vital they are open and transparent about progress, or indeed lack thereof. When it comes to policing their own, data collection across all police forces needs to be far more rigorous and the dots need to be joined far more effectively. An officer with a worrying number of accusations cannot be ignored.

The final report of the Casey Review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Met has to be the roadmap to reform. One of Baroness Casey’s key reflections is that the policy prioritisation of violence against women and girls has not been made an operational reality. She recommends that the Met radically reform and respecialise public protection teams – including the establishment of new specialist teams to deal with rape and other sexual offences. Baroness Casey also recommends that the force aims to specialise its domestic abuse service to create a more victim-centred approach, adding that these teams should be reinvigorated and properly resourced. 

She is quite right. Specialism, training and prestige needs to be injected into this huge and complex area of policing. Furthermore, now that VAWG is a strategic policing requirement, structural and budgetary changes within all forces must be made urgently to reflect this upgrade. Without this, we will continue to see high turnover of staff and low morale in this vital area of policing, which in turn lets down victims. 

I don’t doubt the determination and ability of Sir Mark to restore trust in policing. But a great deal still needs to be addressed before we will see real and lasting change. 

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