With yet another police officer found guilty of sex offences, trust in Britain’s largest force is crumbling


London
CNN

In a distinguished 30-year career with the Metropolitan Police in London, Dal Babu has witnessed his fair share of shocking behaviour.

However, dealing with the sexual assault of a female soldier at the hands of her boss so disgusted him that he never forgot the incident.

Babu, the former chief superintendent, alleged that a detective sergeant had taken a young policeman to make a call, dragged her to a side area and sexually assaulted her. It was brave to report it. I wanted him to sack him but he was being protected by other officers and given a warning.”

Babu said the sergeant in question was allowed to serve until his retirement, while the woman decided to leave the force.

Babu said the alleged incident took place about a decade ago. He resigned in 2013 after being passed over for promotion.

However, despite the many public moments it seems have passed since then, the UK’s largest police service continues to be rocked by allegations that it is doing too little to ensure the safety of citizens from some of its staff.

In the latter case, David Carrick, an officer of the same force, pleaded guilty to 49 offenses against 12 women over an 18-year period, including 24 counts of rape.

Carrick’s confession, on Jan. 16, came nearly two years after the death of Sarah Everard, a young woman who, like Carrick, had been kidnapped by Wayne Cousins, another officer, with the country’s elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection unit. This part of the police is armed, unlike many other British forces.

Everard, 33, was raped and killed before her body was dumped in woodland 60 miles from London, in the neighboring county of Kent, where the Cousins ​​live. It later emerged that her attacker had a history of sexual misconduct, just like Carrick, who had been the subject of multiple complaints before and during his 20-year police career – to no avail.

Protesters placed 1,071 imitation rotten apples outside Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Met police, on Friday to highlight the same number of officers who have been placed under new review in the 1,633 cases of sexual assault and violence against women and girls conducted over the past decade.

Rendezvous commissioner Mark Rowley has apologized for the failures that led to Carrick not being arrested earlier, in an interview distributed to broadcasters in the UK.

Announcing a sweeping review of all those employees facing red flags, he said, “I’m sorry and I know we’ve let women down. I think we’ve failed over two decades to be as tough as we have to be in protecting our own safety.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley (center) pictured on January 5.

On Friday evening, Rowley published a “transformation plan” for reforming the Metropolitan Police, saying he was “determined to restore the trust of Londoners”.

Among the reforms he wants over the next two years, he said in a statement, is to create an anti-corruption and abuse command, be “relentlessly data-driven” in delivery and create “London’s largest ever police presence”.

However, Rowley regrets that he does not have the power to remove dangerous officers, thanks to the fact that police can only be dismissed by lengthy special courts.

Independent investigations into the Met’s misconduct system have been scathing. A report last fall found that when a family member or fellow officer filed a complaint, it took an average of 400 days — more than a full year — to resolve an allegation of misconduct.

For Harriet Westreich, a lawyer pressing the government to give its current investigations into police misconduct legal powers to better protect women, the domestic violence case cannot be overlooked as a gateway to other serious crimes.

Wistrich’s Center for Women’s Justice, a campaign group, initially filed the so-called supercomplaint in March 2019, highlighting how existing measures designed to protect victims of domestic violence have been generally abused by police, it says, from requests for restraining orders to Use of prepaid bail.

In the three years since, as successive Covid lockdowns have left victims at home with their abusers, and prosecutions for such offenses have dropped off, Wistrich says she has noticed a trend of police officers’ associates calling her.

“We have received a number of reports from women who have been victims of police officers, usually victims of domestic violence and who did not have the confidence to report or if they felt they had been widely let down or abused and sometimes abused,” Westrich told CNN.

Police officer David Carrick admitted to dozens of crimes against women, including 24 rapes.

“Or (we saw) the police officer using his status in the family courts to undermine her access to her children.” Wistrich said.

She added, “Certainly if anyone is a victim of a police officer, they would be very afraid to come forward.”

Carrick’s history seems to confirm Wistrich’s point. He repeatedly came to the attention of the police due to domestic incidents, and eventually admitted to lecherous behavior which included locking an accomplice in a closet under the stairs of his home. When some of his victims tried to seek justice, he abused his position to convince them that their word against that of a police officer would never be believed.

Experts say the scale of his offense will further erode trust, particularly among women, and as long as the public is unclear about the scale of the stakes that lie in the ranks of Britain’s 43 police forces, tensions will flare up.

The survey commissioned by the government watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, in the aftermath of the Everard killing found that less than half of UK citizens have a positive attitude towards the police. The head of the same body resigned last month amid an investigation into historical allegations against him. Other surveys since then have shown that trust has continued to decline.

Even Wistrich is pessimistic about whether or not the police will implement needed reforms.

Flowers are laid out for Sarah Everard.

“Over the years, we’ve had a series of blows to the police, around monitoring violence against women,” she said. “We had kind of a meltdown in rape trials which had been an issue that had been going on for a while, and then we had the phenomenon of police abuse.

“But, you know, it’s kind of amazing how much trust the police have been able to maintain from the general public despite all these stories,” she said, referring to Carrick’s recent guilty plea.

For Patsy Stevenson, one outing with the Met was enough to change the course of her life in an instant.

After she decided to take part in a thousands-attended vigil commemorating Everard’s death in March 2021, she was pinned to the ground and arrested by Met officers when they stormed the event on the grounds that pandemic rules in place at the time made large gatherings an illegal and health hazard.

When a photo of Stevenson went viral, her flaming red hair splashing as she was forced to the ground screaming with her hands behind her back, she became an icon of militant feminism and a focus of toxic misogyny and death threats.

A protester holds a sign at Sarah Everard's vigil.

She failed the physics degree she was studying in and is now collecting the hundreds of thousands of pounds she said were needed to sue the police for wrongful arrest and assault.

In response to a question about Stevenson’s lawsuit, the Metropolitan Police told CNN, “We have received notification of a proposed civil action and will not be making any further comment while the lawsuit is ongoing.”

The fact that the Meta Police vetting system allowed men like Carrick and Cousins ​​to remain on the force, Stephenson said, shows that “the whole system from top to bottom isn’t working.”

“It’s like we were all screaming, ‘Can you change before something like this happened? And now it’s happened again.’”

Both Babu, formerly the Met’s most senior Asian officer, and Stevenson say the erosion of trust in British police is nothing new. In fact, trust has been on the wane for years, particularly among ethnic minority groups, the LGBTQ+ community and other more vulnerable sections of society, whose treatment at the hands of rogue officers is often reported in the public sphere.

In the days since Carrick last appeared in court, two retired police officers have been charged with child sex offences, and a third serving officer who had access to the schools was found dead on the day he was due to be charged with child pornography offences. .

Four Met officers are facing a serious misconduct investigation after they were ordered to search a 15-year-old girl at a south London school last year. The protection report found that the decision to search the girl was illegal and likely motivated by racism. The principal of the school concerned has now resigned.

With the kidnapping and murder of Everard, a 33-year-old professional white woman, by an officer abusing his extra powers under Covid restrictions, and the sight of several young women, like Stevenson, who are then manhandled by the Met Under. Same rules, anger at this trend of impunity erupted among a larger segment of the population.

“This has been happening for years and years with minorities,” Stevenson told CNN. And it’s only when someone of a certain color or appearance is caught in this way, like me, that some people start waking up to the idea of ​​oh wait, this could happen to us.

Since then I have received death threats. Who can I report it to? the police?” she asked.

However, Stevenson said until her arrest that she had always trusted the police.

“I was the type to peek out the windows and see if there was a house [incident] I’ll go on, let me call the police to sort this out,” she said. “Nowadays, if I’m facing some kind of harassment or something on the street, I’m not going to a police officer.”

This is also the case for Babu’s two adult daughters. Despite growing up with a police officer as a father, he says they also lost faith in the force.

“We talk about it a lot, and no, I don’t think they trust the police,” he told CNN. And let’s be clear, this is also a reflection of a broader issue: the appalling failures in this country to deal with sexual violence perpetrated against women in general.

“I often worry about the safety of my daughters,” he said. “When they go out, even now, I always have them text me telling me they’re home safely.”

Everard is unable to return home that night in 2021 as she walks back from a friend’s house in south London, thanks to the criminal actions of a man hired to protect, not prey, people like her.

Until Britain’s police force grapples with the scale of potential injustice taking place at home, many women – and others – will be rightly concerned.

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