Everard murder case sparks urgent inquiry into vetting of police officers | Police
Police vetting procedures will be urgently reviewed as part of attempts to address the crisis engulfing policing after the murder of Sarah Everard.
Senior officers in charge of UK policing standards also revealed that they wanted to rebuild trust by better protecting officers who challenged “unacceptable behaviour” by colleagues.
The Metropolitan police have admitted making errors in the vetting process that led to the recruitment of former officer Wayne Couzens, who last week received a whole-life sentence for abducting, raping and murdering Everard, 33.
Former Met commissioner Ian Blair on Saturday joined the demands for an independent inquiry into the murder, calling for particular scrutiny on how Couzens had managed to become a Met officer in the first place.
Andy Marsh, who became head of the College of Policing two weeks ago, also said there needed to be more openness and transparency in policing as “an antidote to mistrust”.
David Tucker, head of crime and criminal justice at the College of Policing, said details of Couzens’s behaviour – he was part of a chat group that exchanged alleged misogynistic and racist messages – meant it was germane to look at ways to protect officers who reported inappropriate behaviour by colleagues. A number of female officers have told the Observer that they were afraid to speak out over misogynistic male officers because it might harm their prospects or standing in the force.
Tucker said: “This is probably a good moment to go back and reconsider how we emphasise the importance of colleagues who are prepared to challenge the unacceptable behaviour that they witness. We need our colleagues to step up.”
He also said the Couzens case had made it important to re-evaluate the vetting process. “Is the current guidance sufficient? Do forces adequately comply with that guidance? We should review whether we believe that the vetting is adequate and whether it’s complied with.”
Marsh, the former chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, added that he also wanted to create a new culture of “leadership” throughout every level of British policing.
His comments came amid calls for the UK’s most senior officer, Met commissioner Cressida Dick, to resign over the murder of Everard.
The two people that control her fate – London mayor Sadiq Khan and home secretary Priti Patel – have signalled their support, although sources indicate Khan’s motivation was concern over who Patel would select as her preferred successor to Dick.
Disquiet, though, continues to build among London MPs who were further angered during a call with the commissioner on Friday, in which some told her directly that she should quit. MPs said they had been left with the impression that the Met was not considering real action in response to the concerns raised by the murder of Everard.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the Labour MP for Streatham, was among those to call on the commissioner to go. “To say her response to MPs’ concerns was tone deaf is an understatement,” she said. “There were no concrete plans to address the current issues, just platitudes. Also nothing to address the fact that so many officers found guilty of sexual misconduct are allowed to keep their jobs.”
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, said: “Policing can only be done by consent. And we all have to ask whether the Met has the consent of the public in London to do its job.
“Yet again this week, Cressida has not brought people with her and that matters. It matters when you’re talking about the safety of 51% of our local population.”
Marsh, meanwhile, stressed he wanted to focus on creating a culture where people felt confident to report inappropriate behaviour. “Leadership is incredibly important in creating an environment where men and women are not bystanders to wrongdoing,” said Marsh. “If we’re going to be as good as the public wants and expect us to be and we need to be, we need to develop outstanding leadership at every level.”
He also accepted that rebuilding trust would take time following the grisly details of how Couzens abused his power to falsely arrest Everard.
Marsh said: “This has caused very significant internal and external damage. And people are really, really feeling shocked, angry and hurt. But all of those internal things don’t hold a candle to the people affected by this or indeed, the woman or the girl walking down the street on their own feeling unsafe.”
“Regaining trust will be done through the selfless everyday actions of police officers and staff across the country, who come into this job to keep the public safe, irrespective of any risk it poses, and do it because they care about people.