“Please ask them what they’re going to do about the massive failings other than be sad”. Those were the words of Jess Phillips, directed at Priti Patel and Cressida Dick today, although she should have also directed them at Sadiq Khan, given his oversight role over the Met.
The more I read about the background of Sarah Everard’s murderer Wayne Couzens, the more I scratch my head at how he was ever allowed to remain in the Met. There were two incidents of indecent exposure. His nickname was The Rapist. Yet the wagons were circled and he remained a policeman. Presumably there was a reason he was known as The Rapist. It’s called Cop Culture. We protect our own. This culture of course is not unique to the police, but its consequences are sometimes far worse than in the financial world or the world of sport. We’ve seen it in operation in the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry. We see it at large in cases of police corruption. Line of Duty may be an exaggerated drama, but we all know that there is more than an element of truth in it. The exposure of misbehaviour and evil intent relies on people willing to blow the whistle on their colleagues. Time after time it happens in the police and the whistleblower suddenly finds their career prospects being blighted. In variably they are forced out or sent to Coventry. And this has the consequence of others thinking twice before they expose wrongdoing. Keep quiet, and you’ll go far. Nudge, nudge, wink wink.
Dame Cressida Dick is well aware of all this but has done absolutely sweet Fanny Adams about it during her five years in charge of the Met. A few months ago I urged Priti Patel and Sadiq Kahn not to reappoint her, given the plethora of failures that have happened during her time in office. Today, I am even more convinced she needs to be replaced, along with all the other senior timeservers who have failed us in the leadership of the Met. Clean house, I think is the phrase.
Meanwhile, Sarah Everard’s poor family are sentenced to a life of never ending grief. Nothing any of us can do can bring them any solace. The only solace they will ever find is if measures are introduced to keep women and girls safer. I do not pretend there are dozens of other Wayne Couzens’s out there in the Met. But the lasting effect of this terrible murder will be to make women feel unsafe in the company of an individual male police officer. I can only imagine the terror they might feel if they see a lone male officer approaching them. The logical part of our brains tells us this is a one off, but this is not a time for pure logic. Fear is often irrational. But I do know this. If I were a woman, I would certainly feel like that, and I can’t blame any woman who does.
And that’s the task facing the Met and police forces all over the country – to rebuild trust. It’s incredibly difficult given all the other statistics and lived experiences that make women feel they’re not getting justice. I don’t pretend I have the answers, but I certainly want to listen to those who hopefully do.
I am sure I am like many other men, who speak on these matters with a degree of trepidation. One word out of place or open to misinterpretation and we feel as if it is we who are the accused. But if we don’t speak out now, then when will we?
Change is needed, but who will be the changemaker(s)?