Sarah’s death should make us see the institution is rotten, too, says Fleet Street Fox
Image: METROPOLITAN POLICE/AFP via Gett)
It was just one bad apple, apparently, who arrested, kidnapped, raped, and killed Sarah Everard.
And it was 771 bad apples in the Metropolitan Police who have been accused of rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and abusing their position of power for sex since 2010. It was 163 bad apples who were arrested, less than half of them who were charged, and only 44 convicted while another 83 were sacked. Just 2% of the bad apples were rotten enough to be jailed.
It’s 92% of police officers accused of acting like bad apples to their own wives and girlfriends who are cleared by their colleagues.
There are another 15 bad apples being investigated for offences linked to Sarah’s death, including a probationer guarding her remains, members of the Police Federation who breached standards by sharing details of the case, and another six investigated for sharing “grossly offensive” racist, misogynistic and homophobic messages with her killer.
The government and police leaders say it’s just one bad apple. But the fact is, if you want to rape and murder women, put the boot into minorities, intimidate, harass, stalk, belittle and humiliate others, the best job for you is to join the police.
You get a uniform, handcuffs, compliance, and the unquestioning protection of the rest of the boys in blue.
Even the best of people, given weapons, training, and legal protections, would find it hard to resist the urge to “find” evidence to put away a wrong’un who’d otherwise do it again. The most optimistic of us would, after a few years of policing, form the opinion that some people are just scum, and you have to close ranks to protect yourselves from attack.
Many people would turn a blind eye to a colleague, nice bloke, great laugh, bit of a lad, he’s snuck off for a quickie with that victim he dealt with last week, I’ll cover for him with the boss. And everyone, in a riot, would prefer the power of being in the riot squad rather than in front of it.
We know that many of the decent, ethical, well-meaning people who form the majority of the police force do exactly that, every day. They unwittingly enable, and institutionally protect, the significant minority who seek out the vulnerable, abuse the power of their uniforms, and enjoy the thrill of being able to terrify others with impunity.
Sarah Everard’s killer was not just a serving police officer, and lone rotten apple, when he snatched her.
He was a serving police officer for three separate police forces who should have sniffed him out. He was a serial sex offender who had been caught on CCTV exposing himself in front of women on at least three occasions. He was known by colleagues as The Rapist, and since his belated arrest 3 female officers have accused him of sexual harassment.
He was surrounded by those who ignored a rotten apple; who did not investigate clear evidence of his foulness; who made a joke about his taste for violent pornography and treatment of women; and he was so protected by a rotten institution that a trio of victims felt unable to accuse him of a serious crime without putting themselves at risk.
Former Met Police chief superintendent Parma Sandhu explained why. “A lot of women will not report their colleagues,” she said. “What happens is that male police officers will close ranks, and the fear that most women police officers have got is that when you are calling for help, you press that emergency button or your radio, they’re not going to turn up, and you’re going to get kicked in the street.”
His former colleagues are now investigating what other offences Sarah’s killer may have committed. It is unusual for someone to graduate from indecency to murder without committing other, increasingly worse crimes on the way. He spent a month planning her abduction and death, while a first murder is often on the spur-of-the-moment.
He regularly used prostitutes, and they all too often go missing.
On the plus side, he will now be living in fear of being battered, raped, and killed, for the rest of his days which, it is to be hoped, will be long.
Sarah’s killer will never be released from prison. But what about the rest of us?
AFP via Getty Images)
According to the government and Met today, we can protect ourselves from rape and murder by refusing to co-operate with police officers, calling 999, demanding to see their ID, asking bystanders to help, and flagging down a bus which, depending on where you are, might turn up in a couple of hours.
Show me any police officer who’ll let you be uncooperative for long, who’ll let you make a call, who’ll tolerate a bystander sticking their oar in without threatening them with arrest for obstruction, and I’ll show you a police officer who has neither a baton, a Taser, or a gun.
The police are mostly good. They need to be able to protect themselves from violent, drunk, and drugged people. But they also make mistakes, and among their number is more than just one rotten apple.
There’s a rotten system, a rotten attitude, a rotten idea. And it’s the fundamental roots of rape and murder that must be tackled, before the monsters who lurk behind uniforms can be cleaned out.
Misogyny must be made not just a hate crime, a way of categorising other offences, but a crime in its own right. That alone would have flushed out every terrorist we’ve ever had.
There must be zero tolerance for sexual offences in every walk of life – in schools, at work, in the street and in the police. There must be mandatory, and immediate, investigation, not a three-year wait or a shrug because it’s too much paperwork. It will stop offenders early and prevent escalation, and women and girls will have some faith that they will be believed.
No allegation of domestic abuse, stalking, or a sexual offence, must be marked ‘No Further Action’ for what police perceive as a lack of evidence, but only if there is a total absence of evidence. They must no longer be considered ‘minor offences’, but red flags.
No police officer must be allowed to patrol alone, for their safety and ours. No arrest should be lawful unless two officers are present, and no officer should be able to patrol with the same colleague repeatedly.
Any breach of police standards of professional behaviour must be considered a crime, enabling investigations and penalties to continue even if an officer resigns before they can be sacked for misconduct.
The Police Federation exists to protect officers. A Victims Federation must be created on the same lines, to act for and advise anyone – including police themselves – who get on the wrong side of a copper. And there should be protected whistleblower status, and anonymity, for officers who speak up about colleagues.
And in the long-term, we are well overdue an inquiry into the links between pornography and sex crimes. That particular problem must be defined, then fixed.
All power corrupts, and most police officers know it. They also know that it attracts those already corrupted. Anyone who says it’s just one rotten apple is lying, because apples go rotten when in contact with others that are already foul, and when no-one keeps an eye on them and plucks out the ones that look like they’re on the turn.
It’s the barrel the apples are in that’s the problem. If Sarah’s death is to count for anything, it must be to make the whole world see that the institution is rotten, too.