Met’s failings see decline in public confidence

More than a third of Britons no longer trust the police

More than a third of Britons no longer trust the police

We’ve long been accustomed to the good cop/bad cop routine in tv and film crime dramas. Out on the street or in the interview room, good cop goes easy on the nervous suspect, maintaining a feeling of wellbeing and that all will be okay. Then bad cop takes over, with threats, bullying, sometimes even violence, all aimed at convincing the now terrified suspect to confess all. Frequently, bad cop isn’t bad at all, he’s (it’s usually a man) only bad to the baddies. In the real world though, it has become increasingly apparent in recent times that there are a considerable number of bad cops out there.

London’s 31,000 strong Metropolitan force has come in for much criticism after a catalogue of disturbing, and in some cases, horrifying incidents, which have shocked the public and shaken the confidence of many – particularly women. The brutal kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens last year, provoked outrage and claims of insufficient scrutiny of those applying to join the police.

Couzens subsequently received a whole life sentence for his crimes. At the sentencing hearing, Lord Justice Fulford justified the severity of the punishment by saying that Couzens’ use of his position as a police officer to detain Sarah Everard was the “vital factor which in my view makes the seriousness of this case exceptionally high.” The then Commissioner of the Met, Dame Cressida Dick, said she felt “sickened, angered and devastated,” by Couzens’s crimes, adding that “everyone in policing feels betrayed.” Since then, however, further incidents have occurred that suggest that systematic misogyny, as well as racism, run deep within the force, and that the perpetrators of unacceptable, and often, criminal behaviour all too frequently get away with their actions.

Newspaper images of student Patsy Stevenson being pinned to the ground by two police officers while attending a vigil for Sarah Everard went viral, seen as a graphic example of the excessive use of force. Stevenson was handcuffed, bundled into a police van, and aggressively questioned before being released on Clapham Common later that night, alone and in pitch darkness. She is currently taking legal action against the police so full details cannot yet be reported.

But there are further incidents and scandals, including revelations that officers at Charing Cross police station had been caught joking about raping women and killing black children. To be clear, this problem involves other forces as well as the Met and that throughout the country there are clearly many thousands of good, devoted police officers doing their job with honesty and integrity.

Cressida Dick resigned as Commissioner after London Mayor Sadiq Khan made it clear that he had no confidence in her plans to reform the Met. Those plans had been long promised but slow in appearing. We must hope that Dame Cressida’s successor as well as police chiefs throughout the UK act swiftly and decisively in changing ingrained, unacceptable attitudes and in rooting out the rotten apples.

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