What we are doing to tackle male violence against women and girls in policing
This week, former Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick is due to be sentenced for dozens of heinous and despicable sexual and violent crimes committed against women over two decades.
Carrick’s actions are disgraceful and everyone I speak to in Bedfordshire Police shares my deep upset that this behaviour was carried out by someone who wore the same uniform and took the same oath we did to protect the public.
But everyone in policing must ask themselves serious questions. How can men like Carrick and Wayne Couzens work alongside us for so many years, display clear warning signs of their predatory behaviour, yet go on to commit these most appalling crimes.
This is not just ‘a Met problem’. Already this year one of our student officers has been dismissed for assaulting a woman and engaging in coercive and controlling behaviour. Last year another of our officers was sent to prison for child sex offences.
The ‘one bad apple’ narrative does not wash.
We in policing can say we are shocked, that such behaviour is unbelievable from a serving officer, and point to the vast amount of work being done by police officers and staff to keep women safe. This includes the detectives from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit who ultimately bought Carrick to justice.
Frankly, it isn’t about how we are feeling. Consider how our communities must feel, knowing that policing harboured men like Carrick and Couzens for so long?
How must victims of male violence against women and girls feel, terrified that the police officer sent to help them could be capable of such predatory and misogynistic behaviour?
How must the partners and charities we work so closely with feel, knowing that the vulnerable people they are working tirelessly to support will have had their trust and confidence in policing shattered beyond repair?
We can and must do better. Where it is about us is putting the structures and culture in place to ensure policing roots out such vile individuals, as well as being upfront and transparent about the scale of the issue.
Tackling police perpetrated domestic abuse is a fundamental part of our MVAWG strategy. More resources are being put into our tri-force Professional Standards Department (PSD), to clear our vetting backlog and ensure every complaint is thoroughly and rigorously investigated.
PSD is also being more proactive in terms of getting out across different teams and educating our workforce about misogyny, sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behaviour.
No stone is being left unturned in our efforts to root out sexual predators working in policing.
As the result of our pursuit of these perpetrators, we may see some shocking headlines and negative press in the not-too-distant future. These cases may well cause further damage to the public’s trust and confidence in our organisation.
But it is work that must be done. People like this have no place in policing, and getting rid of them is the only way we can truly start to earn back the confidence of our communities.
Changing our culture and reinforcing the high standards we expect is even more important. Our efforts are focused on those that behave in an unacceptable manner, making it clear that it is not ok and will not be accepted. That they will be challenged and held to account.
In doing this, we are growing confidence in our organisation to support upstanders.
In 2021 we created Blue Bell, a support network of peers across Bedfordshire Police to openly discuss inappropriate behaviour, as well as educating and supporting victims and witnesses of sexual misconduct.
We are supporting the HeForShe movement, building a network of allies across the organisation who will fight for gender equality and stamp out misogyny.
Both these groups will be out across the force this week for a series of roadshows to get the message out and reinforce how important this is for everyone who works here.
We have made great strides over the past year to improve our response to male violence against women and girls and to create a culture in force where people feel confident to come forward and call out unacceptable behaviour.
I am determined to see this same progress in our standards, attitudes and behaviour in policing.