On 3rd March 2020 Sarah Everard went missing. On 6th March the Metropolitan Police started a missing persons appeal for Sarah, by 12th March they had charged Wayne Couzens, a serving police officer, with her murder. The fallout from this senseless murder and from the Police behaviour at a vigil for Sarah a few days later was painful to witness.
In June of the same year, the bodies of two sisters, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were found in a North-West London park. Once again the Metropolitan Police’s handling of these hateful murders was reproachable. The reporting and investigation provoked widespread discussion of women’s safety, police misconduct, institutional misogyny and systemic racism.
These are just a few of the more than 400 women who have been murdered since March 2020. Over 90% of these murders are by men.
Now, two years on, we know that when Cressida Dick, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner insisted that there were only a ‘few bad apples’ in the Met Police, that this was not true. In the last six months there have been further deeply upsetting revelations about police brutality, misconduct, rape and sexual assault and the endemic misogyny and racism of the Met Police is now an accepted fact.
The new Commissioner, Mark Rowley has publicly stated that there are currently more than 1,000 Met Police Officers being investigated for sexual assault or sexual misconduct. He has warned that we should expect many more upsetting cases to come.
The Met has now been placed in special measures and Rowley has said he plans to have zero tolerance from now on; ‘We have been too weak in countering racism, misogyny, homophobia and ableism. We have let down those we’re here to protect – particularly London’s black communities, women and girls and the LGBTQ+ community.’
We have been let down, many of us are angry and revolted at the behaviour of officers that we should be able to trust to keep us safe. We worry about what this is doing to women’s sense of safety, their confidence in reporting violence and abuse and ability to seek justice. For Black and minoritised women, migrant women, disabled women and LGBT+ survivors, the latest revelations have only compounded existing mistrust.
In 2021, studies showed that 76% of women thought the culture of policing has to change.1 in 10 women said they would be less likely to report sexual assault to the police following Sarah’s murder. This at a time when already 5 out of 6 women don’t report rape and less than 1.5 % of those reported rapes end in conviction.
Two years on, we are still in the midst of a series of reviews into the police. The Casey Review is looking specifically into the culture and standards of behaviour in the Met Police, the broader Angiolini inquiry into recruitment and vetting processes, and the extent to which misogynistic and predatory behaviour exists across police forces, and a Home Office review is soon to start into the process of police officer dismissals. Whilst these reviews are important and we need to hear the voices of survivors and specialist support organisations, women need to know that there will be decisive action taken to respond to them by the police and other decision makers. The problems in the police have been known for many years, and so it is crucial that this time there is real accountability and leadership to make the real change that is needed to keep women safe.
We again offer our condolences, our support and our solidarity to all the families and loved ones of the women and girls who have lost their lives due to male violence, we will continue to campaign and work to make the world a safer place for women and girls.