London’s Metropolitan Police have issued advice to women approached by lone police officers in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, including orders to ‘run into a house’, ‘wave down a bus’ or call the police. at 999 if they don’t believe it. officer is “who they say they are” after questioning them.
Prosecutors said Everard was walking to her London home on March 3 when on-duty police officer Wayne Couzens used his police identification and handcuffs to trick her into getting into his car under the pretense of violating COVID-19 rules.
He raped her and later that night strangled her with his police belt.
Couzens was sentenced Thursday to life imprisonment, which is very rare in the UK and reserved for exceptionally serious crimes. It means that the suspect is never eligible for parole.
In a press conference on Thursday, Assistant Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police Nick Ephgrave said: “The majority of Metropolitan Police officers patrol and perform their duties in uniform in the company of other police officers.”
He added that while plainclothes officers sometimes patrol, plainclothes officers “almost always…are deployed in pairs or in larger groups.”
“It is very unusual for a plainclothes police officer to be deployed alone, and even more unusual for them to deal with only a member of the public,” Ephgrave said.
The Met added in a written statement Thursday that if anyone is approached by a single plainclothes agent, they should “seek further assurance as to that agent’s identity and intentions,” by asking “some very investigative questions of that agent.” .
The recommended questions are: “Where are your colleagues? Where are you from? Why are you here? and why exactly are you stopping or talking to me?”
The statement added that those approached are “trying to seek independent verification of what they are saying, if they have a radio, ask to hear the operator’s voice, even ask to speak to the operator over the radio to to say who you are and for them to verify that you are with a genuine officer acting legitimately.”
“If you feel in real and imminent danger after all this and you don’t believe the officer is who he says he is, for whatever reason, then I’d say get help — yelling at a passerby, run into a house, knock on a door, wave down a bus or, if you’re in the position to do so, dial 999.”
“The Met’s statement, and this advice in particular, demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the issue of women’s safety in the police force. It doesn’t even recognize the huge power imbalance between a police officer and someone they arrest.” The Women’s Equality Party reported this on Twitter.
A local Liberal Democrat councilor in London’s Sutton borough, Jenny Batt, tweeted: “That the Met has issued this advice shows how far they have failed and how much confidence and legitimacy they have lost with women. Information coming out about Couzens & his interactions with other officers exacerbate this. We need a complete overhaul of police vetting procedures.”
“After his arrest, as the public would expect, we have [Couzens’] vetting. This assessment confirmed that he passed the vetting processes. However, it also determined that one of a series of checks may not have been performed correctly,” the Met said in a press release on Thursday.
Opposition Labor MP Angela Rayner tweeted in response to the advice: “What’s going on at the top of the Metropolitan Police? Give me strength.”
The UK government’s crime and police minister also said on Friday that people should question a plainclothes officer and call the police if in doubt, as the agency reckons there is a wave of public mistrust following the murder of Sarah Everard.
Speaking to Sky News, Kit Malthouse said: “If anyone has any doubts about a police officer then of course they should ask the officer what they are doing and why they are doing it. They should ask to either speak to the emergency room on the officer’s radio. , or if in doubt, call 999 and ask a question.”
Officers are “rarely deployed individually” and it would be “perfectly reasonable” for anyone approached by a lone officer to “seek reassurance,” he said. “I’m afraid we have to be there,” he added.
The minister also defended the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, who is under pressure to resign given the misconduct in the police force under her supervision, particularly in the handling of Everard’s case and the police response.