The last few days have demonstrated that the police force is institutionally sexist as well as racist, and male violence against women and girls in the Met police force is an ongoing issue. Wayne Couzens, the officer who raped and murdered Sarah Everard isn’t one bad apple. In the last 18 months, almost 200 Met police have faced allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct. And yet only 4 were either suspended or had duties restricted, and only 2 have gone to court in the last decade. Of the almost 800 Met police who have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the last decade, only 83 have been sacked. This is not acceptable.
Police officers nicknamed Couzens ‘the rapist’ – they clearly knew he was a threat to women, and they joked about it. The Met Police have issued a statement saying no colleagues raised concerns about his behaviour and he passed his vetting – whilst asking us to have confidence in that vetting process! They then gave ‘advice’ on what to do if you are stopped by the police. Apparently we should ask “very searching questions” like where are your colleagues, where have you come from, why are you here, exactly why are you stopping or talking to me? If you are still worried, the advice is to shout out to a passer-by, run into a stranger’s house, wave a bus down or….call the police. Not one of these would have stopped Couzens from using his official police ID to arrest Sarah. And when have we ever got answers when questioning the police if they are arresting you? What’s more, it’s an insult to say that women should have to take these actions to be safe – surely this responsibility lies with the Met Police?
There was another court case last week involving the Met Police. The judges ruled that they had grossly violated the human rights of a woman, Kate Wilson, by deceiving her into having a sexual relationship whilst being ‘undercover’ and infiltrating political and campaigning groups. They ruled that she had experienced degrading treatment at the hands of the officer, and that senior officers either knew and chose not to act, or were ignorant and negligent. Last year after Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry had been murdered, Met police took and shared photos including selfies by their bodies. Misogyny runs deep in the Met.
As Council officers many UNISON members have to work with the police, and we would like to see steps taken to make sure we are safe and do not experience police racism and sexism. There needs to be clear guidelines about the relationship with the police, the expectations of their behaviour and what we can do when this does not work. We also carry out lone working in many of our jobs and we need proper support, training and mechanisms in place to keep us safe.
Camden UNISON and UNISON nationally have a majority of women members. Our safety is a trade union issue and we stand with and campaign alongside those who challenge the sexism we face in society and from institutions like the Metropolitan Police.