Breaking down the boys’ club: how sexism still hurts the police | Police
Police sexism is an institutional problem that simply has not gone away.
It has hampered the Yorkshire Ripper’s investigations into John Worboys – and, despite repeated attempts at reform, a toxic culture among some male officers has persisted for decades, affecting colleagues as well as victims.
In the 1970s West Yorkshire Police were accused of failing to take the Yorkshire Ripper case seriously because sex workers were initially targeted. It wasn’t until Peter Sutcliffe started “killing innocent girls”, in the words of one investigating officer, that efforts to catch him intensified. Sexism in the investigation was rampant.
In the end, 13 women were killed by Sutcliffe and seven more were victims of attempted murder for five long years, between 1975 and 1980.
This week, after Wayne Couzens was jailed, it emerged that five police officers and a former officer, all of whom were in the same WhatsApp group as Sarah Everard’s killer, are under investigation for serious misconduct. They are accused of sharing discriminatory and misogynistic messages.
It is far from an isolated incident. In January, five officers from an elite Hampshire Police unit were caught making sexist, racist and homophobic remarks and fired. Women were called or referred to as “” bitches, “” bitches, “” sweet tits “or” sweet tits, “” Dorises, “” a fucking Doris, “” prosecutors said at a court hearing in the case that led to the layoffs.
At one point, the officers in Hampshire, secretly recorded by investigators, wonder among themselves if someone using the public address system is “taking a dick”.
Such attitudes have a long history. In 1982, Police, a BBC on-the-fly documentary, recorded Thames Valley Police officers callously questioning a woman who reported that she had been raped by strangers and then received 16 pence for his bus ticket. An officer accuses him of being “a willing party” and of telling a story that is “a fairy tale”.
The outcry that followed the program led the Home Office to call for better training of the police to deal with the rape. A few years later, in 1987, the police created the first units dedicated to the fight against domestic violence. By the end of the following decade, the system had spread throughout England and Wales.
Yet two specialist sex crimes units in London failed to locate and apprehend two serial sex offenders for years during the 2000s. One was taxi-driver rapist Worboys, who , according to police, committed 105 sexual offenses against women over a six-year period.
Police had not seen a pattern, although 14 women had filed complaints that they had been assaulted or had a disturbing experience in a black cab. One of them was told by an officer to ‘fuck you, black cab drivers don’t do that kind of thing’.
In the end, two victims had their claims for compensation from the Met – for a total of £ 41,250 – upheld by the Supreme Court. Despite a challenge to the strength of the capital, the court ruled in 2018 that the police had failed to conduct a proper investigation.
At the time, Harriet Wistrich, the lawyer representing the women, said that “it was not a lack of resources that made these women fail” but “a lack of belief” among police officers which meant that their complaints were not listened to. Or as one victim put it, “You have the procedures in place, now start doing your job.”
The other case was that of Kirk Reid, who was convicted of 24 sexual assaults and two rapes in south London in 2009. But he first emerged as a suspect in 2004, and police admitted that he ‘it had taken far too long to arrest the author. “We need to do everything we can to prevent the same things from happening again,” then Met Assistant Commissioner John Yates said of the Worboys and Reid cases.
Dozens of policewomen left the police frustrated or worse. Nusrit Mehtab, who left the Met after 32 years last year, alleged his promotion was hampered by racial and gender discrimination. She recalled how early in her career she was “initiated” by male colleagues leaving a vibrator in her locker.
Persistent attitudes affect the handling of cases, according to former officers. Susannah Fish, the former Nottinghamshire Police Chief of Police, said earlier this year that she would seriously consider reporting a crime committed against her as there was a “toxic culture of sexism” in significant parts of the country. police.
“I also know in terms of conviction rates and the challenges of going through the criminal justice system, as a woman it’s thankless,” she added.
Rape prosecution rates have fallen 70% since 2016-17 – though numbers reported to police kept increasing until the start of the pandemic – while the murder of Everard by a police officer in service has exacerbated a growing lack of confidence in women in the police force.
Over the past two years, 129 women have contacted the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ) to claim they have been raped, beaten and coerced by their spouses and police partners. One victim said it was impossible for the complaints to be taken seriously because it was a “boys club”. At the Met, men outnumber women 2.5 to 1.
Yet despite the past and present, senior officers can still send mixed messages. As recently as June, Met Police Chief Cressida Dick argued that there was sometimes a “bad ‘one” in the ranks the day Wayne Couzens first pleaded guilty; On Thursday, she went further: “This man has shamed the Met.”