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The independent inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) have warned that a culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour towards members of the public and female colleagues persists across many UK police forces today.
The report was commissioned in October 2021 by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel in response to the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by an off-duty Metropolitan Police Officer.
Several other incidents, including reports of harassment, misogyny and racism in Charing Cross police station, led to public confidence in the police declining, with the Met eventually being put in special measures earlier this year.
Today’s report stresses recent high-profile incidents were not the work of the occasional “bad ’un” as claimed by the former Met Commissioner, but an indication of longer-standing problems, systemic failings, missed opportunities and “a generally inadequate approach to the setting and maintenance of standards in parts of the police service”.
“We keep hearing about plans to rebuild trust and confidence in the police, but we have yet more evidence of the extent of failings”
Speaking to PoliticsHomeAndrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) said the report made it clear that there are widespread issues with vetting, standards and professional conduct, as well as systemic misogyny within policing.
“We keep hearing about plans to rebuild trust and confidence in the police, but we have yet more evidence of the extent of failings and a lack of concrete improvements in outcomes for women,” Simon said.
“Transparency, scrutiny and accountability are the building blocks to restoring confidence in policing. If there isn’t transparency and scrutiny about how police are doing their jobs, there won’t be confidence.”
HMICFRS was just one body tasked with investigating misconduct and misogyny within the police. In February 2022 the Metropolitan Police tasked Baroness Louise Casey with reviewing the culture and standards of the force.
Although the Casey review is not expected to deliver its final report until February 2023, last month saw the publication of its interim findings that outlined significant issues in the misconduct practices of the Met, including: investigations taking too long to conclude or initiate, and equality and discrimination issues not being tackled effectively.
In a statement, the government stressed the findings were “highly concerning” and that they would shortly be launching an internal review into the process of police dismissals.
The report from HMICFRS today also highlights examples of police officers transferring between forces despite a history of concerning misconduct, and several incidents where what should have been assessed as gross misconduct being assessed as misconduct only, or not treated as misconduct at all.
In a statement, His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr, stressed the need for reform of the misconduct system in order to stamp out misogyny and predatory behaviour in policing.
“The police must do more to prevent unsuitable people from joining in the first place, identify any misconduct within the force, and quickly dismiss officers and staff if they are not fit to serve the public.”
Both Baroness Casey and HMICFRS have called for better processes to be brought in across police forces to deal with vetting and misconduct. However, there is concern that problems are still prevalent while the government pursues its ambition to recruit 20,000 new officers by 2023.
“Given the risks involved with recruiting officers at the scale and speed required by the uplift programme, it is essential that police leaders act now on our recommendations. Our report highlights that they simply cannot afford to wait any longer,” Jukes stressed.
Simon of EVAW, agrees that it is “not only counterproductive but clearly dangerous to rush into recruiting tens of thousands of new officers when such longstanding and deeply rooted issues remain unaddressed”.
The Home Office and the Met still await the findings of the most substantial inquiry commissioned following the murder of Sarah Everard. Part II of the Angiolini Inquiry was brought forward this year and is currently investigating how Wayne Couzens was allowed to operate within the UK’s largest police force despite concerns being raised about his conduct.
Although its findings are not expected imminently, it is anticipated the report will act to highlight further concerns with the Met’s vetting processes and handling of complaints.
“Being ruthless in ridding the Met of those who corrupt our integrity is central to Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley’s vision of reform,” the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Barbara Gray told PoliticsHome.
“We are setting clear expectations of behaviour and are developing data and technology to identify those who are not fit to serve.
“We will succeed with the vast majority of our honest and dedicated officers and staff. We welcome the HMICFRS’ report and will carefully consider the opportunities for learning and improvement.”
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