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New report finds it's "too easy for the wrong people to join and stay in the police"

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has today (2 November) published its findings following an inspection of vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in the police service. The inspectorate report is the third report in as many weeks detailing the failures within policing to prevent and address misogyny and violence against women and girls.

The report found that “police vetting standards are not high enough and it is too easy for the wrong people to both join and stay in the police.” The report also found that “some police officers have used their unique position to commit appalling crimes, especially against women.”

The Inspectorate highlights how systems and procedures to vet unsuitable applicants are failing, that gross misconduct is being ignored or minimised, and that there exists a culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour. We refer to this as rape culture – where women and girls are objectified, sexualised, and so subject to harassment, violence, and abuse. When women resist rape culture, their concerns are dismissed, belittled, or they are actively ostracised for speaking out.

Case studies in the report show how rape culture is embedded across different forces, and officers with a history of oppressing women and girls have been recruited.

HMICFRS has made 43 recommendations which include:

  • establishing better processes for managing risks relating to vetting decisions, corruption investigations and information security;
  • improving the quality and consistency of vetting decision-making, and improving the recording of the rationale for some decisions;
  • extending the scope of the law on police complaints and misconduct procedures;
  • understanding and defining what constitutes misogynistic and predatory behaviour;
  • all intelligence concerning possible sexual misconduct by officers or staff (including abuse of position for a sexual purpose and internal sexual misconduct) is subject to a risk assessment process, with action taken to minimise any risk identified
  • sufficient support for victims and compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales.

Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis England and Wales comments:

This report is yet another record that confirms what we already know to be true; that misogyny and sexism is systemic within policing, and a significant part of this has been recruiting officers that have a demonstrable disregard and hatred of women. These attitudes are driving a culture whereby police-perpetrated violence against women and girls is accepted, ignored and covered up.
How are we as a society supposed to effectively tackle violence against women and girls when many of those employed to uphold the law are using their positions of power to perpetrate abuse?

We must continue to insist that the much-needed unearthing of these horrors results in a real cultural overhaul, with leadership across forces taking responsibility for allowing such profound failings to occur under their watch. Whilst we have been encouraging of the wide-ranging and significant work being undertaken to change the police response to the investigations of rape, child sexual abuse, and other sexual offences, those efforts are undermined by sex offenders who are in the employment of multiple police forces.

This is far from the first time we have heard this. The HMCIFRS report itself states: “The police service has had ample warning that behaviours, cultures and processes need to change.” When are we going to see this change?

We extend solidarity to victims and survivors of police-perpetrated sexual violence and abuse, and to those who have been failed by officers who have bought into rape culture. We demand rape justice now.