2021-10-01 15:13:20 London Police, Under Fire on Everard Murder, Respond With Safety Tips

London Police, Under Fire on Everard Murder, Respond With Safety Tips

LONDON — Hours after a murderer who used his position as a police officer to kidnap, rape, and kill Sarah Everard was sentenced to life in prison, London police advised women to challenge lone plainclothes officers if they felt unsafe when confronted by them, and to flag down a bus or ask a bystander for assistance.

The guidance, which was accompanied by a long list of other measures that the force had taken or planned to take in response to Ms. Everard’s murder, including increased patrols and plans for a new strategy to address violence against women and girls, sparked outrage and mockery in the United Kingdom.

Many women criticized the guidance for putting the onus on them to protect themselves rather than addressing officers’ problematic behavior.

“This advice, in particular, demonstrates a fundamental lack of insight into the issue of women’s safety with the police,” the Women’s Equality Party said in a tweet, adding that the force had failed to recognize “the huge power imbalance between a police officer and someone they are arresting.”

Critics say the guidance and other planned measures have done little to allay public fears or restore public trust following the revelation that a London police officer abused his position to carry out the attack on Ms. Everard earlier this year. Her assassination sparked widespread outrage and prompted calls to improve women’s safety.

During the sentencing hearing for the officer, Wayne Couzens, who handcuffed and abducted Ms. Everard under the guise of an arrest before raping and murdering her and setting her body on fire, troubling new details about the case emerged this week. Mr. Couzens was fired by the police after pleading guilty to the crime.

The revelations sparked long-simmering outrage among women, prompting London’s Metropolitan Police to issue advice on how to protect themselves on Thursday.

Many women said the guidance raised concerns about what they see as a lack of meaningful action by the police and government in dealing with broader issues of violence and misconduct in the ranks of the police.

They also argue that the approach once again places the onus on women to protect themselves while failing to address institutional flaws.

People had understandably lost trust in the police and the criminal justice system, according to Jolyon Maugham, executive director of the Good Law Project, a governance watchdog.

“You don’t restore trust with victim-blaming, and you don’t restore trust with ridiculous suggestions that people run away if they aren’t sure if it’s a legitimate police officer, or wave down a passing bus driver,” he said. “What is a bus driver supposed to do?”

The Metropolitan Police acknowledged that Mr. Couzens’ abuse of power had shaken the force, and that it was one of a number of high-profile cases that “bring into sharp focus our urgent duty to do more to protect women and girls.”

It also acknowledged for the first time that there may have been mistakes in vetting Mr. Couzens before he joined the force, and stated that an investigation into an allegation of indecent exposure by the officer days before Ms. Everard’s abduction was ongoing.

The Metropolitan Police said a review of Mr. Couzens’ vetting process began after his arrest for the murder of Ms. Everard. While he had passed the vetting process, the review discovered that one of the background checks “may not have been undertaken correctly” and failed to uncover an allegation of indecent exposure in Kent in 2015.

Some opposition lawmakers have called for the resignation of Cressida Dick, the head of London’s police force, while others have called for a broader investigation into potential systemic failures.

Senior government officials in charge of policing have backed the police commissioner.

Kit Malthouse, the government’s crime and policing minister, acknowledged that the case had “struck a devastating blow to the confidence” in the police and raised concerns about how to prevent similar attacks in the future. However, he stated that he believed Ms. Dick should remain in her position.

“The question in our minds is what went wrong?” he said in an interview with Sky News on Friday, adding that an investigation would be necessary to determine “how this monster slipped through the net to become a police officer” and what we can learn from it to make the police force a “better organization that has the unquestioning trust of the British people.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper said the Metropolitan Police and the government’s response to Ms. Everard’s murder by a serving police officer was “totally inadequate.”

“We need answers,” she said in a Twitter statement. “How could this dangerous man have been a cop for so long?” What should be changed in policing?”

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London Police, Under Fire on Everard Murder, Respond With Safety Tips