Britain’s most senior police officer has admitted that there is the occasional “bad ’un” within the ranks of the Metropolitan police service.
Her comments came on the day that one of her officers pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and rape of Sarah Everard, who went missing in March while walking home in south London.
Speaking more widely about violence against women and girls in a speech given to the Women’s Institute on Tuesday, Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, said the force “must be and are intolerant of violence”.
“I have 44,000 people working in the Met. Sadly, some of them are abused at home, for example, and sadly, on occasion, I have a bad ’un,” she said. “We are intolerant, and we set ourselves high standards in how we work to identify and tackle and prevent any such behaviours.”
Speaking specifically about Everard’s death, she said it had sent shockwaves through communities and across the police. “The Met was angry and shocked – everybody,” she said. “And what happened then, I think, has been a catalyst for wider societal concerns about women’s safety to be raised.”
PC Wayne Couzens, 48, has admitted responsibility for Everard’s killing, but has not yet entered a plea to the charge that he murdered her. A court on Tuesday heard that psychiatric reports were being compiled and may be ready next month.
Dick was criticised in the wake of Everard’s death after officers were accused of being heavyhanded during a vigil held to remember her and protest against men’s violence against women. At first, the Met had cooperated with the original organisers of a vigil planned for the weekend after her body was found, but then banned the gathering citing coronavirus restrictions. Hundreds gathered in defiance of the order, and images of officers pinning women to the ground at the vigil in Clapham Common on Saturday 13 March provoked rebukes from politicians including the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Everard’s death and “subsequent events” had “brought into sharp focus our resolve, our determination to work even harder with our partners across the criminal justice system to protect women and to bring offenders properly to justice”, said Dick.
While crime figures suggested that the UK was a very safe place to live and London was one of the safest large cities in the world, she acknowledged “there’s a job to be done to improve trust and confidence in policing for women, right across London”.
She revealed that since the disappearance of Everard at the beginning of March, women fearful of walking the streets in south London where the 33-year-old marketing executive was kidnapped and raped have been telling officers of their concerns in “buddy” walking sessions across Clapham.
Dick said the Met were “really eager” to hear the concerns of the public and suggestions on how safety could be improved.
The “walk and talk” scheme had been developed by officers as “part of their proactive, front-footed response to local women’s concerns [which] have been heightened latterly”, she said. Local women were given the chance to walk around their local area “to show a police officer what it makes them feel like and what they think could be improved”.