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Editorial: Police must rebuild trust following Sarah Everard case

The Sarah Everard murder case in London has seriously damaged the reputation of the Metropolitan Police and left many women questioning how they can trust serving officers.

Ms Everard's killer Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole-life order last week for using his powers as an officer to falsely arrest, kidnap, rape and murder her.

Couzens used his warrant card to arrest and kidnap Ms Everard, citing Covid powers.

Following sentencing, the Met released absurd advice on how women could protect themselves in the event of a false arrest.

Suggestions that women should “flag down a bus”, challenge the legitimacy of a lone plain-clothed police officer, or call 999 if they are concerned, ignores the reality of what it may feel like for a woman, or any member of the public, to be stopped and arrested.

Conservative police and crime commissioner Philip Allott was forced to apologise for claiming that Ms Everard should not have “submitted” to being falsely arrested and handcuffed by Couzens.

In truth there was nothing Ms Everard could have done and it is insulting to suggest otherwise.

What the case has done is highlight a disturbing culture of sexism in the Met.

At least two former senior female officers have come forward to raise concerns of inappropriate behaviour in the force.

Former Met chief superintendent Parm Sandhu said the force was "very sexist and misogynistic” and female officers were afraid to challenge the bad behaviour of male colleagues because they worried they would be abandoned while dealing with violence on duty.

There are serious concerns that Couzens' earlier behaviour was allowed to go unchallenged.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is still investigating the potential failure of the Met and Kent Police to properly investigate three separate allegations of indecent exposure against him.

The police watchdog is also investigating the conduct of 15 officers and a former officer linked to Ms Everard's case.

A further probe is investigating “offensive and abusive” sexist messages shared by a WhatsApp group that involved Couzens.

It can only be hoped that these investigations spark a sea-change in the approach of the Met and all other forces.

Ms Sandhu's suggestion that all officers should be vetted on a regular basis to rebuild public trust seems like a sensible one.

Alliance MLA John Blair has already called on the PSNI to state what it is doing to prevent a case like that of Ms Everard in the north.

All forces now need to gain back the trust of women.

The police's role is protect those in society. Women should not need protecting from them.

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