February 1, 2023

As another police officer is convicted of sex crimes, confidence crumbles in UK’s largest force

8 min read


In a distinguished 30-year career with London Metropolitan PoliceDal Babu has seen his fair share of shocking behavior.

Still handling a female recruit sexual The alleged assault at the hands of his superior disgusted him so much that he never forgot the incident.

Babu, a former chief superintendent, claimed that a detective sergeant took a young constable over the phone, took him to a side area and sexually assaulted him. “She was brave to report it. I wanted her fired but she was protected by other officers and given a warning,” he said.

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

Babu said that the alleged incident took place almost a decade ago. He resigned in 2013 after being approved for promotion.

Yet, despite many public moments of apparent reckoning since then, Britain’s biggest police service has come under fire for doing too little to ensure citizens are kept safe by some of its staff. has been

Ruth Davison, CEO of UK domestic violence charity Refuge, pictured at the Rotten Apples protest on 20 January.

In the latest case, David Carrick, an officer with the same force, Confessed to 49 crimes. Against 12 women over an 18-year period, including 24 counts of rape.

January 16 marks almost two years since Carrick’s admission. After the death of Sarah Everard, a young woman who was abducted from a London street by van Cousins, another officer who, like Carrick, served with the country’s elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection unit. This part of the police force is armed unlike any other force in the UK.

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

Protesters held 1,071 fake rotten apples outside Met Police HQ’s Scotland Yard on Friday to highlight the number of officers who have dealt with 1,633 cases of sexual assault and violence against women and girls over the past decade. has gone .

Met Commissioner Mark Rowley apologized in an interview distributed to UK broadcasters for the failings that had led to Carrick not being caught earlier.

Announcing a full review of all employees who encountered red flags, she said: “I’m sorry and I know we’ve let women down. I think we’ve been so ruthless in two decades. I failed as much as we should have in protecting our integrity.

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

On Friday evening, Rowley published a “turnaround plan” to reform the Metropolitan Police, saying he was “determined to win back the trust of Londoners.”

Among the reforms he wants over the next two years, he said in a statement, are the creation of an anti-corruption and abuse command, “very data-driven” delivery, and London’s “biggest neighborhood policing ever”. Creating a “presence”.

Yet Rowley laments that he does not have the power to fire dangerous officers, thanks to the fact that police can only be dismissed through lengthy special tribunals.

Independent inquiries into the Met’s misconduct regime have been deeply troubling. 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 Westerich, a lawyer who is lobbying the government to give its current inquiries into police misconduct legal powers to better protect women, domestic abuse is a gateway to other serious crimes. cannot be ignored as a way.

Westrich’s Center for Women’s Justice, a campaign group, first filed a so-called super-complaint in March 2019, highlighting how existing laws generally designed to protect victims of domestic abuse are failing. The measures are being misused by the police, he said, from applications for restraining orders to the use of pre-charge bail.

In the three years since, as the ongoing Covid lockdowns have resulted in victims being stuck at home with their abusers, prosecutions for such crimes have declined, Wistrich says. He said he noticed a tendency for partners of police officers to approach him.

“We have been receiving numerous reports from women who were victims of police officers, usually victims of domestic abuse who were not confident to report or if they did report, felt they were being beaten up on a large scale. visited or hunted down and sometimes criminally prosecuted themselves for reporting,” Westrich told CNN.

Met Police officer David Carrick admitted dozens of crimes against women, including 24 counts of rape.

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

“Certainly if someone is a victim of a police officer, they’re going to be very scared to come forward,” he added.

Carrick’s history seems to confirm Wistrich’s view. He had come to the attention of the police for repeated domestic incidents, and eventually confessed to the abuse by locking his partner in a cupboard under the stairs of his home. When some of his victims tried to seek justice, he abused his position to convince them that they would never be believed against the police officer.

Experts say the scale of his insults will further erode trust, particularly among women, and until the public can see how dangerous the ranks of Britain’s 43 police forces are, tensions will rise.

A poll commissioned by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a government watchdog after Everard’s murder, found that less than half of UK citizens have a positive attitude towards the police. The head of the same institution had himself resigned last month amid an investigation into a historic allegation against him. Other surveys since then have shown that confidence has steadily declined.

Even Wistrich is pessimistic about whether the police will implement the reforms that are needed.

Flowers were placed for Sarah Everard.

“Over the years we’ve had a lot of setbacks for policing, around policing violence against women,” he said. “We have had such a collapse in rape cases which has been an ongoing problem for some time and then we have this phenomenon of police abuse emerging.

“But, you know, in a way it’s amazing how much public trust the police have been able to maintain despite all these stories. So I don’t know how long or how big of an impact it’s going to have,” he said. said, referring to Carrick’s recent guilty plea.

For Patsy Stevenson, a run-in with the Met was enough to change the trajectory of her life in an instant.

After deciding to participate Thousands of people participated in the rally. To mark Everard’s death in March 2021, he was hanged to the ground and arrested by Met officers when they stormed the event on the grounds that pandemic laws at the time prohibited large gatherings for health reasons. was made dangerous and illegal.

As Stevenson’s photo went viral, her flame-red hair shot out as she was forced to fall to the ground screaming with her hands behind her back, a symbol of militant feminism and toxic abuse and death threats. It became the center.

A protester holds up a placard under the supervision of Sarah Everard.

She failed the physics degree she was studying for and is now raising millions of pounds she says she needs 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 the proposed civil claim and will have no further comment pending the claim.”

But the fact that the Met Police’s vetting system has allowed men like Carrick and Cousins ​​to stay on the force shows that “the whole system from top to bottom is not working,” Stevenson said.

“It feels like we’re all screaming, can you change before something like this happens? And now it’s happened again.”

Both Babu, who was once the Met’s most senior Asian officer, and Stevenson say the breakdown of confidence in British policing is nothing new. In fact, trust has been declining for years, especially among minority ethnic groups, the LGBTQ+ community and other more vulnerable segments of society, whose treatment at the hands of abusive officers is often underreported in the public domain.

In the days since Carrick’s last court appearance, two retired police officers were charged with child sex offenses, and a third serving officer with access to schools was found dead the day he was charged with child pornography. Crimes were to be charged.

Four Met officers are facing serious corruption investigations after ordering a strip search of a 15-year-old girl at a south London school last year. A safeguarding report found that the decision to search the girl was illegal and possibly motivated by racism. The head teacher of the school in question has now resigned.

With the kidnapping and murder of Everard, a 33-year-old white professional woman, at the hands of an officer abusing his extra powers under covid restrictions, and the sight of a number of young women like Stevenson, who was later managed by Mt. By the same principles, anger at this trend of immunity erupted in a large section of the population.

“It’s been happening to minority groups for years,” Stevenson told CNN. I started thinking, oh, wait, this could happen to us.

“I’ve been getting death threats ever since. Who can I report this to? Law enforcement?” he asked.

Even so, Stevenson said up until his arrest that he had always trusted the police.

“I was the kind of person who would peek through the windows to see if anyone was home. [incident] Come on, let me call the police to sort it out,” he said. “Nowadays, if I get harassed or something in the street, I don’t go to the police officer.”

The same goes for Babu’s two adult daughters. Despite growing up with a police officer as a father, he says he also lost faith in the force.

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

“I often worry about my daughters’ safety,” she said. “Every time they go out, even now, I always ask them to text me and let me know they made it home safely.”

Everard never made it home that night in 2021 when she walked back from a friend’s house in south London, thanks to the criminal actions of a man hired to protect people like himself, not victimize them. .

Until Britain’s police force fully tackles the scale of potential injustice within, many women – and others – will rightly remain concerned.

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