In a bid to bring “bring common sense and consistency” to the police misconduct process, the College of Policing (CoP) has reviewed the current penalties for breaching police standards. The CoP concluded that violence against women or girls by police officers will always have a “high degree of culpability,” adding that all alleged offences will still be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the CEO of the CoP, said in a statement, “Officers who commit violence towards women and girls should expect to be sacked and barred from re-joining the police,” adding that “There is no place in policing for anyone who behaves in a way that damages the public’s trust in us to keep them safe.”
While this is a step in the right direction, it’s understandably prompted questions about how misogyny in the police force has previously been handled.
In September 2021, i News obtained data showing that 771 Met police officers and staff – 88% of whom were serving officers – had faced sexual misconduct allegations in the past 11 years, with only 83 of them being sacked.
Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, highlighted that “People of colour and women have said for decades that the police are institutionally racist and misogynistic, so it is shocking a measure such as this hasn’t been introduced sooner,” adding that Refuge welcomed the decision to move away from a “culture of violent misogyny.”
Davidson explained that 1,300 police officers and staff have been reported for alleged domestic abuse offences since 2018, but of those, only 36 had been dismissed, adding that police officers are “a third less likely to be convicted for domestic abuse than non-police officers.”
She noted that misogynistic behaviours have gone “unchecked” as “police officers closed ranks protecting perpetrators of abuse.”
Her statement closed: “The bare minimum a woman should expect when she takes the brave step to report domestic abuse, is that the officer she speaks to is not a perpetrator himself.”
“Public trust in law enforcement is woefully low, so this is a positive first step in rebuilding public trust. Further action to root out and end the culture of violent misogyny which has been laid bare in recent cases is urgently needed to help ensure women and girls have confidence in the police to protect them.”
Deniz Uğur, Deputy Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, also highlighted concerns about how misogyny is handled in the police force. In a statement, Uğur said, “We have serious concerns that the police misconduct regime is failing to delivering meaningful accountability.
“This is particularly worrying due to the enormous scale of police abuse of power for sexual purposes, which is now the single biggest form of corruption dealt with by the police complaints body.”
She continued, “We also know that forces are also failing to respond appropriately to reports of domestic abuse perpetrated by their officers.
“The police inspectorate recently found that under 7% of cases were referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, that 61% of cases had no misconduct investigation at all, and that these systemic deficiencies cause significant harm to the public interest. In addition to poor outcomes, the process of reporting is unfair and often harmful, with fewer than 6% of women saying they would feel confident reporting police-perpetrated domestic abuse again.”
Uğur also pointed out that misogyny is not the only problem within the police, noting that the new guidance should also include “other forms of discrimination and misconduct driven by inequality on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexuality, migration status, disability and other characteristics,” adding that, “Black, minoritised and other marginalised women are disproportionately likely to experience police misconduct.”