I wish I found it shocking that over 1500 complaints were made against police about violence against women and girls in a six month period leading up to March 2022. It should shake all of us to the core that those complaints result in basically no charges or sackings. But no women I know were surprised. Horrified, yes, but surprised that police marking each other’s homework resulted in very few sackings, not so much.
The National Police Chief’s Council wants us to be grateful that the data is being collected and collated for the first time, but that is not good enough for me. It’s also not good enough that the data doesn’t also include race and sexual orientation of victims as our BAME communities have long suffered and been overpoliced and underserved.
Ideally, we would be looking at forces having a zero tolerance policy to violence against women; but similar to those saying that making misogyny a hate crime would inundate and overwhelm the police; I’ve been told if they got rid of every misogynist on the force nationwide; there would be a lot of empty canteens. I jest, but women not trusting the police has a very human cost. In fact it makes the streets more dangerous for the thousands of men and women who are good police. I want to trust the police. I wish I still did, but my blinders are off and that trust needs to be earned back.
I have spent two years unexpectedly campaigning for police reform and listening to many experts, including many former police. I have come to learn that there are policies the NPCC could implement nationally now – instead of just waiting for the next set of horrifying figures.
Firstly, remove anonymity for any officers removed for misconduct charges. No one should be permitted to hide behind the warrant card that they lost the right to carry through their own behaviour. This decision should not fall to an independent panel; every police officer removed from duty for misconduct should have this information made public, as a deterrent to corrupt behaviour and to protect the general public.
Secondly, and this one seems too obvious to actually type; but officers under investigation for sexual offences should have their warrant cards (and guns) removed.
The most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home according to the UN and this certainly applies to many women in violent relationships with serving officers. The Centre for Women’s Justice (who filed a super complaint on this issue in 2020) has some really obvious demands. If domestic abuse by a police officer is being investigated – it needs to be investigated by a different police station. These arrangements should be reciprocal.
Misconduct and criminal proceedings should happen simultaneously. Currently it can take 400 days, on average, for internal misconduct hearings and those usually don’t happen until after an officer is found guilty in criminal proceedings. The bar to entry to stay a police officer should not be a custodial sentence, if so that bar is on the floor.
Currently whistleblowers are threatened, ridiculed and transferred whilst the men they are accusing stay in their positions of power overseeing the humiliation. This perpetuates the violence and victimisation of the women that dare to come forward – whistleblowers must be protected at all costs.
If a serving officer has a non-molestation order served against them it should automatically trigger a disciplinary processes. We cannot expect officers that have no problem, for example, harming their partner to then come into the station like boy scouts and report that they have had a protection order placed against them. The choice in the matter needs to be removed. Rachel Horman-Brown a solicitor specialising in family court and domestic abuse says “any officer who has found by a civil court to have committed domestic abuse should no longer be employed by the police as they are clearly unfit to hold that position.”
Part of the issue is the glacial speed that it takes to “root out” the bad officers that are hiding in plain sight. But my final solution comes from former Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding: “Officers who are proved to be wrongdoers that warrants their removal from the police service should be fast-tracked through the investigation process and court system much like a juvenile is. Obviously this may lead to greater workloads for officers that are investigating them, but this should now be a police priority in order to weed those people out quicker and enhance the rebuilding of trust and confidence in the police”
Let’s get that fast track nationally established now. Not in another two years, I don’t want to wait for the next report, I am done with talk. Define gross misconduct nationally, and set some standards for behaviour for those trusted to protect and serve. I know zero tolerance to violence against women and girls is a long way off; but if this fast track to removal is established and transparent; this would be the first step in rebuilding my trust and that of many women.
Jamie Klingler is a co-founder of Reclaim these Streets