LEVEL OF CONTINUED POLICE MISCONDUCT IS SHATTERING THE CONFIDENCE OF WOMEN IN LONDON
With yet another police officer pleading guilty to sexual abuse, we must start asking what is going on.
The highly disturbing and upsetting revelations about the violent and misogynistic culture within the Metropolitan Police Force continue to make headlines, but how these officers are able to abuse their position of power and trust leaves many of us continuing to question how this is being allowed to happen.
We cannot accept that these are isolated incidents – there are now over 800 Metropolitan Police officers who are being investigated for domestic and sexual abuse. Convictions rates are worryingly low for all domestic abuse in the general population at just 6.3% but how can we accept that those who are supposed to help improve these convictions rates have a lower rate themselves at just 3.4% for police officers and staff (according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism).
Reports from last year showed that more 167 police and civilian staff at Greater Manchester Police have been accused of domestic abuse since 2018. But the investigations resulted in just three court cases that ended in a conviction and the vast majority of those accused still remain with the force. Again, we have to question how well these accusations have been investigated, and what else is there to uncover. Women and girls from marginalised groups, particularly Black and minoritised women, religious minorities, disabled women and LGBT+ communities, already had lower trust in the police and feel less safe, these revelations are only exacerbating the huge work that is needed to ensure all women are protected.
Less than 2% of reported rapes end in conviction – less than 2% – let that sink in – and that is the reported rapes, we all know that many women and girls don’t report sexual assault, that if and when they do they are often not believed or unsupported. There is still so much shame attached to being the ‘recipient’ of sexual abuse, a societally reinforced idea that women must somehow be to blame. All of this helps to facilitate abusers, to enable them to continue their vile and violent patterns of behaviour. They are all linked – misogynistic language, shame and the lack of conviction. They all serve to support each other and to dehumanise women.
Of course, it’s not all men, and it’s not only men, but the truth about any toxic culture is that over time everyone is habituated into thinking that this is ‘normal’ and the people who don’t toe the line or who try to question the status quo often find themselves the scapegoat or victim of these insidious behaviours.
So, what can we do? How can we ensure that these cultures are not just challenged, but stopped?
There are and continues to be reports and inquiries into the behaviour of police officers and the lack of action taken by the institution, but we are still not seeing change. We want to believe that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner when he says that he promises action and that he will be ‘ruthless at rooting out those who corrupt.’ He’s right that their integrity has been corrupted, and without it, we cannot trust our Police to keep us safe.
The recommendations and steps for improvement have been clearly established and we urge:
· An overhaul of recruitment and vetting processes for police officers, including when officers move between forces.
· The Casey Review recommendations into misconduct cases to be rapidly introduced.
· Each police force to set up specialist and independent domestic abuse advocate schemes which support victims of domestic abuse
· The ongoing Angiolini inquiry is put on a statutory footing to ensure that victims and whistle-blowers can give evidence.
· A root and branch inquiry into institutional misogyny in the Metropolitan Police
There are going to be more and more painful, upsetting and shocking revelations to come as the Police reopen closed cases and take a thorough inventory of themselves and their culture. As always, our thoughts and our support is with the victims, survivors, their families and loved ones. These systemic failings have ruined too many lives. Enough is Enough.