The trial of Wayne Couzens revealed he used his police warrant card and handcuffs to kidnap Sarah Everard off the street before strangling her with his police belt and burning her body. He claimed to be using the extraordinary Coronavirus police powers, the same powers his colleagues later used to disperse the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common and arrest campaigners present. Couzens is one of fifteen police officers convicted of killing women since 2009.
The news follows findings that 26 Met officers have committed sex crimes in the past five years. Two of the officers were jailed for their offences in April — a month after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. The offences include rape, possessing indecent images of children, and voyeurism, dating back to 2016. Last week it also emerged that Everard’s killer allegedly exchanged “misogynistic, racist and homophobic” text messages with five other serving police officers, two of whom are now under investigation. The judge presiding over Couzens’ sentencing highlighted that his Met colleagues had spoken for his character despite knowing he had pled guilty to the rape and murder of Everard. On 3 October, a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police, David Carrick, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was charged with rape.
The suggestion that women worried they may be about to be attacked by a Police Officer “wave down a bus” seems to have done little to restore the Met’s reputation. Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is seeking to see off calls for her resignation with the appointment of an “anti-sleaze” advisor. Dick said that she hoped to announce a “high profile figure” to lead the review. The “anti-sleaze” advisor will be chosen by the commissioner and report to her, “weeding out predatory officers”. “This person will also work alongside me, challenging my senior team and our leadership on standards, corruption, sexual misconduct and how the Met responds when things go wrong,” the Commissioner wrote in the Evening Standard on Monday 4 October. Added to this, there will more police officers! The unfortunately but possibly accurately named “Predatory Offender Units”, will include 650 new officers in key “hotspot” locations for offences of violence and harassment. It seems likely the “anti-sleaze” ploy was intended to avoid a fuller public enquiry into misogyny in the force (which, in some form, the government has now ordered anyway). The police don’t have a great record on marking their own homework at the best of times, and we don’t suppose that is about to change any time soon,” a Reclaim the Night spokesperson said. The choice of “sleaze” as euphemism for more serious charges of misogyny and violence against women betrays the inability of the Met to recognise the issue.
With horrendous timing Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, has launched a new group called Labour Friends of the Police. Several MPs have already joined, the party says, and its patron is Lady Hilton of Eggardon, a Labour peer and a former Met police commander. The labour movement should not be seeking to save the reputation of the police at a low point of public confidence. As Kelly Rogers writes in Women’s Fightback: “The primary role of the police is to protect private property, patrol borders and wage campaigns on behalf of the state (from the war on drugs to crackdown on anti-social behaviour) which are proxies for a policy of racial and social exclusion and oppression.”