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Is our trust in the police broken beyond repair?

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

Every so often, we are faced with huge news stories that shake up the nation. In March 2021, Sarah Everard was raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens. The same Wayne Couzens who is on record as having a vehicle registered to his name involved in an incident of indecent exposure. The same Wayne Couzens who was lovingly known to his friends on the force as ‘the rapist’. The Met Police claim that they ‘didn’t see’ the previous indecent exposure charge linked to Couzens and still hired him. The laziness by the Met put Couzens in the perfect position to commit his crimes in plain sight. This story set the world into outrage - and rightly so - but it also highlighted the many other women (typically non-white women) who have met similar demises that aren’t given the same amount of media coverage.

The fact is: The police abusing their power is nothing new. On September 17th, Sabina Nessa was also tragically murdered by a man as she made her way through the park. These two attacks raise a serious issue: How do we feel safe when a policeman and a man convicted of predatory murder commit the same brutal acts? After Sabina was identified as the victim of this attack, Greenwich council gave a knee-jerk response, distributing 200 rape alarms to local women and a promise of ‘better street lighting’ - despite her murder happening at only 8.30pm in the September light. Did they really think lack of rape alarms was the issue here?

90% of sexually charged offenses reported to the police do not make it to court. Meaning in 90% of cases, the police are the buffer between the victims and justice. Between 2016 and 2020, 52% of police officers found guilty of sexual offenses have kept jobs in the police force. Looking at the statistics it is easy to feel like the police have a general disregard and lack of urgency when it comes to sex offenders paying the price for their crimes. One woman is killed by a man on average every three days in the UK, according to the Femicide Census.

The response to Sarah Everard’s murder was to have more Met police patrolling the streets at night. Couzens used his badge to arrest this young woman and cuff her against her will. Women have now been advised to run away if a lone cop tries to arrest them. This twisted and contradictory advice is not only powerless but sends a very wrong message that women need to put in measures to not be assaulted. This sentiment is echoed by police, fire and crime commissioner, Phillip Allott who says ‘women need to be more streetwise.’

Sistah Space are an organisation formed in Hackney, London who advocate for Black women who have been affected by domestic and sexual violence. They are petitioning for Valerie’s Law: A law that will make specialist training mandatory for all police and other government agencies that support black women and girls affected by domestic abuse. This was a direct response to the murder of Valerie Forde and her baby girl by Roland McKoy in her own home. Six weeks prior to this senseless killing, Valerie had made a report to the police following threats by McKoy to burn her house down with her and the baby inside. Two detective sergeants were found guilty of misconduct for poor record keeping.

Faron Alex Paul is a London man who has been a victim of knife crime, being stabbed twice himself. He now does routine weapon collections for people who want to turn their lives around but are afraid to go to the police. For many a call to the police is a risk in itself. In response to the 81 women murdered by men in 28 weeks since Sarah Everards killing, Paul put a statement on his Instagram stating

‘It is going to be us that has to stand up against the scumbags doing this, let’s get out patrolling and supporting who’s with me.’

The fact that we are truly relying on vigilantes to safeguard women shows in itself how broken beyond repair the trust with police is for many demographics.

This is a global issue. This incredible article by WILPF illustrates that fact very clearly. The attitude towards women worldwide is violent. If the police world wide are not preventing crime and are in some instances actually aiding crime, then the systems are deeply flawed across the board. When people talk about defunding or abolishing the police they are talking about removing the force as we know it as rebuilding it from scratch with a structure that no longer has racism, sexism and misogyny as its three pillars.

Image credit: LUCY NORTH/ALAMY @ Sisters Uncut protest

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