Women’s trust in the police can not be rebuilt until officers are held accountable for their own misconduct
The Prime Minister refusing to make misogyny a hate crime and the Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, not even knowing the definition of the word, illustrates that tackling violence against women and girls is not a priority for this government.
What is needed to rebuild women’s confidence in the police after the horrific dereliction of duty caused by Wayne Couzens?
It’s a very tricky question given the last six months. Cressida Dick and indeed the Metropolitan Police might have less of an uphill battle if any of us had any remaining faith in her reassurances.
We are sick of hearing how deeply concerned she is when she sent officers in to manhandle women attending a peaceful vigil after Sarah Everard was killed by a member of her force. I am physically unable to sit through her statements, given that she has known for six months that Couzens used his warrant card and handcuffs to restrain Sarah.
For six months Dick knew that that detail would be released to the public and that we would all be outraged and deeply disturbed by the fact that he arrested and restrained Sarah. But what did Dick do over the ensuing six months to make us safer? What policies did she put in place? What training mechanisms? What whistle blower schemes? Nothing. Not one demonstrable practice was put in place. No, the best the Met could do, under the guise of her leadership was to tell women to flag down a bus if they think that an undercover officer isn’t who they say they are.
Cressida Dick is no longer able to hold her job with any credibility
It’s no wonder that I and so many women have no confidence in the police with Dick in charge. I fully understand that getting rid of one person doesn’t correct all the wrongs and doesn’t fix years of misogyny and racism; but at least it doesn’t reward failure. It doesn’t reward Dick attending a Women’s Institute event and talking about a “wrong ‘un”. A “wrong ‘un”? It’s insulting to any woman who has been belittled by her officers whilst reporting sexual harassment or rape or stalking incidents.
It isn't just the big cases; it is systemic and I experienced it. I was advised by police officers in Islington to apply for a court order of protection to dissuade someone who was harassing and stalking me. When I showed the officers my solicitors estimate that it would cost £7,000 for me to privately get a court order of protection, they were shocked. They had no idea that the advice they were freely giving out, rather than actually doing their jobs and protecting me, could cost me – the victim – that much. They downplayed what my solicitor had detailed as stalking offenses and minimised my danger, so that they were not forced to deal with the perpetrator.
This is what Cressida Dick’s police force is instructed to do when women report crimes. When women seek help. When women try to protect themselves. It wasn’t until I was on the nightly news with Reclaim These Streets that any of the details of my case were investigated. Is that what it takes to get listened to? Is that what it takes to be heard?
Too many women have been invisible to the Metropolitan Police, too many of us have been ignored. The force tries to claim that by having a woman at the helm, they are doing something more for the women of the capitol. I counter that the woman at the helm of the Met Police is no longer able to hold that job with any credibility.
The only way for women to feel safe is by invoking a structural and culture change of our society, ensuring it actually tackles misogyny and doesn’t brush it under the carpet. The Prime Minister dismissing misogyny and refusing to make it a hate crime and the Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, not even knowing the definition of the word, illustrates that tackling violence against women and girls is not a priority for this government.
No one should be able to become a member of our police force if they have a record of sexual assault or misconduct. The police are the people tasked with keeping us safe, the people we go to when we need to report a crime. They, therefore, cannot be the same people who are committing those crimes.
If an officer already in the force has been accused of domestic violence, harassment, assault, or any kind of violence against women, they must be immediately suspended until a thorough and independent investigation has taken place.
Jamie Klingler is the co-founder of the Reclaim These Streets.
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