Culture of misogyny endemic in British policing, ITV Exposure uncovers

Serving and former officers lift the lid on the misogyny within UK police forces

It was back in 2021 that we were alerted to the story which has shaken British policing to the core.

In the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of a serving police officer, the ITV Tonight team made a programme about the appalling crime and the public reaction to it.

As part of the filming, I interviewed former Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, Sue Fish.

I wanted to talk to her about a perceived culture of misogyny in the police, and growing reports of some male officers assaulting their female colleagues.

I wasn’t prepared for what she told me. And she wasn’t expecting to say what she did.

Half-way through the interview Sue stopped. There was a catch in her voice and the tears came.

She had had direct experience. As a younger officer, she claimed she’d been sexually assaulted by an older male colleague.

She’d never admitted it in public before.

When we broadcast it, the floodgates opened - both for her and for us. Women officers across the country began to speak about their experiences.

Few experiences can have been more shocking of course than those who’ve suffered so deeply at the hands of the monstrous David Carrick, jailed this week for 30 years for raping and assaulting women over the course of two decades, while hiding in plain sight in the Met.

But it’s become clear to us that it’s a culture not only poisoning the Met - but forces right across the whole country.

The Metropolitan Police's headquarters

For a documentary airing on ITV this Thursday: I’ve listened to stories from serving and former officers from right across the country, from forces large and small - in areas rural and urban. They are speaking out as never before.

What we’ve uncovered is an endemic culture of misogyny and sexual offending threaded through the whole of British policing.

It poses urgent and searching questions about just how we are policed in the UK in 2023.

And this is not an historic problem. It’s happening right now.

And if we are to have faith in those whose job it is to uphold the law - the culture cannot be permitted to persist.

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Take Rachel (not her real name) - a brilliant young woman who joined the Met on its fast track graduate training scheme in 2020.

When she took up a job in the serious sexual offences unit, she was horrified at what she heard and experienced.

Officers joking about Sarah Everard’s murder.

A colleague whose nickname was ‘The Rapist’ - the same as Wayne Couzens.

Officers celebrating when they managed to persuade a woman who’d reported being raped, not to pursue her case. Is it any wonder conviction rates are so low?

And in the wake of the scandal at Charing Cross Station, when it was found some officers had been sending each other highly sexualised, discriminatory and violent WhatsApp and text messages - another shocking story.

The senior officer sent to deliver a special training course about how police should use social media, told them all to go home and delete whatever they had on their phones that could be reported.

It is a serious allegation of cover-up.

So far the Met has not even responded to it, despite our request.

Take Faye, a serving officer in West Mercia Police.

She alleges she was sexually assaulted at a police party by a senior officer, and recounts the experience in grim detail. But she faced opposition when she made a complaint because the officer was ‘good at his job’.

Serving West Mercia Police officer Faye spoke to Julie Etchingham about her experiences in the force.

She tells me she got the message loud and clear.

“It just felt like - don’t worry about sexually assaulting or harassing a colleagues because you are really good at your job. You’re far too valuable to the police service to get rid of you - you can do what you like.”

Or take ‘Emma’ - an officer of thirty years in a rural force, who’s about to retire - and cannot wait.

She is so scared of her colleagues finding out she’s blowing the whistle, that we don’t simply distort her voice for our broadcast, we have to replace it completely.

She fears her force would run the interview through their own voice recognition system.

Emma says she was targeted after making a complaint about an officer who rubbed himself up against a junior colleague. She was moved from her job.

“They just came down on me like a ton of bricks,” she tells me. “You watch the ranks close because that’s exactly what they do. You’ve got similar ranking officers investigating their mates - how on earth can you even think that would be fair?”

In the course of researching the programme, we had also had emails and letters from serving officers, or those who had just quit because they could stand it no more.

One male officer from Devon and Cornwall served for 16 years. He’d just left, and wrote to us about his some of his colleagues.

“There were conversations about having sex with colleagues as well as officers around who had nicknames such as ‘Rapey’ and ‘Kissy’ with rumours that swirl around them.”

Sixty-four male officers at Devon and Cornwall have faced allegations of sexual misconduct or bullying just in the last three years.

If good men in our police forces - of which of course there are many - are leaving, then the system is truly in a mess.

We also interviewed Baroness Louise Casey, who is currently leading a review of the Met in the wake of repeated scandals. Her final report is to be published imminently. Given what she has told us, it will be merciless.

I asked her how big a crisis this is for policing.

Baroness Louise Casey

She said, simply: “I don’t know how much worse it could be."

All the forces we report on say they condemn misogynist culture and the violent behaviour of some of its officers, and promise root and branch reform.

The home secretary has asked every force in England and Wales to check their officers and staff against national police databases.

It cannot happen fast enough.

Whilst we have a police force where offenders can hide in plain sight - where sexual deviants actively search out positions within it, knowing they can act with impunity - it is hard to see how there can be trust in the police - for the women inside it and for half the population who depend on them for protection.

One of the foundations on which our understanding of how society should work is in peril, and it is no less than a public emergency to steady it.

On Thursday, the Met issued a fresh response to the allegations made by the former officer 'Rachel' in the film.

The statement said: "The behaviour described by this former officer is totally unacceptable. It refers to an appalling level of disrespect and it is not what we expect anyone to have to endure.

"We have recently added more ways for our officers and staff to report wrongdoing, criminality and any form of discrimination. We are determined to root out those who are corrupting our integrity and create an environment where victims have the confidence to come forward and know action will be taken.

"We are grateful to Baroness Casey for her ongoing work to shape urgent change at the Met.

"Trust, particularly among women, has been profoundly shaken and we are determined to rebuild it."

Exposure : “Women and The Police - The Inside Story” - on ITV, Thursday Feb 9th, 10.45pm

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