London Police Announce Independent Review Amid Trust Crisis


LONDON — London’s Metropolitan Police on Monday announced an independent review into its culture and standards following damaging revelations about police behavior during the sentencing hearing last week for the police officer who killed a 33-year-old woman as she was walking home at night.

The review comes after several high-profile events in the last year, including the killing of the woman, Sarah Everard, have revived scrutiny of the police department and Britain’s justice system.

The sentencing of Ms. Everard’s attacker, Wayne Couzens, a police officer at the time, and the disclosure that he used the authority of his position to commit the crime, has outraged critics who say the police and the courts have not done enough to address male violence against women.

They cite repeated failures by prosecutors to punish domestic abusers and systemic missteps in dealing with the complaints of sexual assault and rape victims, and they accuse the police of failing to deal with a culture of misogyny within the force.

“We depend on public trust,” said Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police, as she announced the review on Monday. “In this country, policing is done by consent, and undoubtedly the killing of Sarah and other events has damaged public trust.”

Ms. Dick said the review would be led by a “high-profile independent person,” and would examine the internal culture, professional standards, systems and leadership training in the force.

Watchdog groups had pushed for a public inquiry into the police department’s approach to violence against women and the behavior of its officers, and there were renewed calls last week for Ms. Dick to resign. But she said she would not be stepping down from her role.

“I am absolutely determined that we rebuild public trust as fast as we can,” Ms. Dick told the BBC.

During last week’s sentencing hearing for Mr. Couzens, harrowing new details emerged about the way he used his position of authority and police equipment to falsely arrest Ms. Everard before abducting, raping and killing her. The police force has also faced criticism for failing to respond to previous allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Couzens.

The announcement of the independent review came shortly after a London police officer was arrested and charged with rape on Sunday.

The police in Hertfordshire, an area north of London, identified the officer as David Carrick, 46, and said the alleged attack occurred in September 2020. He was off-duty in that area at the time of the alleged attack, according to a statement from the London Metropolitan Police Service.

Mr. Carrick was assigned to the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command of the Metropolitan Police, the same unit that Mr. Couzens worked in. The unit, containing hundreds of officers, is responsible for protecting the Houses of Parliament and foreign embassies, and it also provides officers to safeguard government ministers.

He was suspended from his duties as an officer, the statement said, and a referral had been made to an independent office that monitors police conduct. Mr. Carrick, who appeared by video in a local magistrates court on Monday, will be held in custody until a hearing on Nov. 1.

Ms. Dick said in a statement that she was “deeply concerned” about the news of Mr. Carrick’s arrest.

“I fully recognize the public will be very concerned too,” she added.

Last week, the police issued a series of safety tips for women should they encounter an officer, or someone posing as one, whom they considered to be a threat. The guidance included asking the officer “searching” questions, running into a nearby home or flagging down a bus.

The advice was accompanied by a list of other measures that the police had taken or planned to take after Ms. Everard’s killing, but many critics said they did little to address the internal failings of the police to hold their own to account and combat violence against women more broadly.

During the sentencing for Mr. Couzens, prosecutors revealed that he had used his handcuffs and other police equipment and knowledge to abduct Ms. Everard under the pretext that she was being arrested for breaching Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Last week, the Metropolitan Police also acknowledged that there had been possible missteps in the vetting of Mr. Couzens before he joined the force.

Source : Nytimes