Safi Bugel, Alfie Packham and Guardian readers
Sat, 21 January 2023 at 1:00 pm GMT
The arrest of David Carrick, a serving Metropolitan police officer, follows a series of cases of abuse perpetrated by police against women in recent years that have called public trust into question.
Here, five women describe how their perceptions of the Met have changed in light of Carrick’s arrest and other recent scandals involving serving officers.
‘I perceive the Met to be racist and misogynistic’
I have always perceived the Met police to be a racist and misogynistic organisation and have distrusted them throughout my life. My mistrust is based on my own personal experiences and that of friends. For example, on demonstrations at Greenham Common, I’ve had women friends who have been arrested and strip-searched for no good reason. I was at Greenham Common in 1983 and saw women charged by police on horseback.
However, events and inquiries over recent years have made me realise how inherent its attitudes are. I know we don’t want to create more layers of management, but the Met police should be reorganised into smaller entities where it will be easier to root out and manage the appalling behaviour of a number of its employees. I also recognise that the police, like health and social care where I used to work, have been deeply impacted by the 12 years of austerity that have necessitated significant cuts to personnel and weakened the organisation’s ability to manage itself.
Alexandra McTeare, 65, retired health and social care commissioner, Dorset
‘They need tighter vetting procedures’
I’ve worked in the police as a victim care officer and for a rape crisis service for about 10 years so I’ve always known that sexual violence is rife, especially across institutions that work with vulnerable people. But what’s shocking with the Met is how victims’ claims were dismissed even when there were multiple complaints about the same person. That has been repeated because no one is held accountable when complaints are made against them. How other staff members collude with one another, sharing messages and images, makes it really scary for a woman, or anyone that’s experienced this, to go through these processes. This is why the stats of women reporting to the police are going down, it feels very unsafe.
We need tighter vetting procedures, a shift in culture and easier access for colleagues to raise concerns about people they’re working with. You can reform the police, but until sexism is addressed throughout society this will keep happening.
Kate, 40, works at Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services, Devon
‘Discoveries about the Met in recent years have worsened my opinion of them ’
I never had a particularly high opinion of the police as an institution in society generally, but discoveries about the Met in recent years have worsened my opinion of them even more. All of the news stories that have come out about Sarah Everard, the more recent police officer and Child Q are just absolutely horrendous. Before I thought that in an ideal society they would be unnecessary. Now I think they’re rotten to the core and a danger to society.
I think we should be defunding them. I don’t think they should have the money and the power they have and that they should put that money into causes that would stop people going into crime in the first place, like education and levelling up society.
Ellie Watson, 24, translator, London
‘I do not trust the service’
I was brought up in the very middle-class West Country with no reason to doubt that the police were straight and fair. As far as one could see, people got picked up but not unnecessarily. In the past 30 years, I have had more personal work contact with – mainly Met – police and I have been shocked by the lack of respect expressed, quite openly, for people of colour and those who are “different” in any way.
As to attitudes about women, what we have been seeing and hearing is unspeakable. I do not trust the service and I think that reform is overdue. But while we have the current government, and particularly the home secretary, I have little faith in what reform might bring.
Anonymous, 74, London
‘My feelings about the police haven’t changed’
My feelings about the police haven’t changed, because we already knew about their negative bias towards other minorities, such as the high rates of stop and search for black people. It actually is naive to think that misogyny is not an inherent part of the culture, too. I appreciate rape and sexual abuse is not the same as “everyday misogyny”, but the covering up of it, by colleagues and those in power, does involve that.
There are certain crimes I simply would not report to the police, being female. I would also insist on seeing a female officer, if the need arose. My own personal interactions with the police have always been OK. So … my comments are not based on my own personal experience. They’re based on my knowledge of reading the press and my knowledge of being a social scientist.
It’s very hard to whistleblow for anybody in the police. But I don’t know how they can reform something like this. That sort of locker room language, that’s the kind of thing that you can’t fix with one conversation. You can’t just chuck everybody out and start from scratch.
Tina Richardson, 62, social sciences lecturer, Norfolk