Written by Anoushka Patel
Edited by Annika Lilja
Over many years in London, the Metropolitan Police has been accused of presiding over a culture of misogyny. According to commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, as of January 2023, the Metropolitan Police is investigating 1,633 sexual and domestic abuse claims involving about 1,071 of its officers. For many Britons, this has caused a deep level of mistrust between the public and the police, who are expected to fulfill their duty to protect the public. While prominent Conservative politicians, such as Home Secretary Suella Braverman, have been criticised for having allegedly told police chiefs to prioritise "common-sense policing" over diversity efforts and virtue-signalling "woke" messaging, those in the opposition and women’s rights activists have deemed the Metropolitan Police and its officers as being guilty of institutional sexism.
Recent allegations of sexism against the Metropolitan Police have arisen yet again after former PC David Carrick pleaded guilty to 49 rape and sexual offences against 12 women, spanning over two decades. Carrick was accused of using his position as a police officer to instill fear into his victims and displayed controlling behaviour, belittling, degrading and assaulting women. Unfortunately, this is not the only high-profile case that has caused serious concerns about the way the Metropolitan Police treats women. In 2021, Met officer Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole life term for the rape and murder of Sara Everard, who was approached by Couzens while walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham, London, where she was abducted. Not only were the Met Police condemned for failing to recognise the violent behaviour of both officers while they were serving officers, but they were also slammed for promoting “disgraceful” advice for women in the immediate aftermath of Everard’s murder, which urged women who fear a male police officer might not be genuine to ring 999 or “shout out to a passerby, run into a house or wave a bus down” for help. Women told The Independent they were shocked by the guidance – which recommends women ask a lone officer questions like “where are your colleagues?” and “why are you here?”, partly over fears challenging a police officer could easily aggravate the situation and lead to them potentially being arrested. This kind of appalling advice sends a message that is all too familiar to women – that women must be suspicious of everyone around them, and that the onus is on women themselves to act with caution and restrict their freedoms to stay safe. This idea could be described as victim-blaming; if a woman was assaulted, it’s her fault for not being cautious enough, and if she’s concerned for her safety, then panicking makes her hysterical.
The backlash didn’t stop there. Police were also criticised for their mishandling handling of an unofficial vigil on the 13th of March 2022, dedicated to Sarah Everard, which led to some women being physically restrained by police, after the Met Police said it would be “posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19” according to Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball. However, after a case was brought against the Met Police’s use of force at the event, two judges ruled that the Met Police breached their right to freedom of speech and assembly. This harsh reaction to what was supposed to be a peaceful event of mourning has led critics to call out the hypocrisy of the Met Police, who for weeks refused to investigate the lockdown breaches that occurred in Downing Street, despite officers being stationed right outside the door, in a move that was seen as “deferring to the powerful.”
In fact, the toxic work culture and institutional misogyny that plagues the Met Police seems to have reached rock bottom, so much so that in 2022, the Met Police created a new unit – the Domestic and Sexual Offences Unit (Daso) – specifically dedicated to investigating domestic and sexual abuse allegations against its own officers. And it doesn’t just investigate allegations from the public; it also probes claims made by female officers against their fellow male colleagues. Although some have argued that the creation of this unit means that the Met Police are taking the issue of violence against women more seriously, others have been skeptical that the unit will improve relations between women and the police, especially when officers have been allowed to retain their roles despite having previous convictions. According to figures obtained by the Observer, roughly one in 100 police officers in England and Wales faced criminal charges, including for sexual offences, in 2022 alone. This is unacceptable malpractice by the Met Police, who are supposed to carefully scrutinise officer’s backgrounds before allowing them to assume a position of authority, where they can exploit their victims.
Despite the new Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley conceding that he “can’t guarantee women reporting crimes won’t be dealt with by predator,” but promising to “ruthlessly” identify hundreds of officers or staff who needed to be kicked out of the force, so far, there has been little to show that this renewed conviction is delivering results. As of the 6th of February 2023, polling by YouGov suggests that 42% of the population believe that the police are doing a poor job, compared to 50% who believe the police are doing a good job. For too long, the Met Police has continued to get away with its sexist culture, labelling sexual assault and rape threats as just “banter” in their boy’s club. This self-protection by the establishment is putting women in danger. We should resist being patronised with talk of ‘bad apples’ or calls for more undercover police or calls for women to change their behaviour. The police do not need more power, the targets of their discrimination do. We should demand change, starting with an immediate expulsion of these sexist, corrupt officers and the people who enable them.
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