‘The Met was angry and shocked – everybody’
Britain’s top police chief has told an audience of women that she “sometimes has a bad ‘un’” in her ranks, on the same day PC Wayne Couzens admitted to the kidnap and rape of Sarah Everard.
In a speech to the Women’s Institute (WI), Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, speaking about violence against women and girls, said that “recent events” had heightened “people’s concerns, women’s concerns about violence.”
“We recognise we must be – and we are – intolerant of violence against women and girls,” she said. “I have 44,000 police officers and staff working in the Met. Sadly some are abused at home for example.
“And sadly on occasion I have a bad’un. We are intolerant and we set ourselves high standards in how we work to identify, prevent and tackle any such behaviours.”
PC Couzens appeared at the Old Bailey earlier on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to the kidnap and rape of Sarah Everard, who went missing in March while walking home in Clapham, south London.
The court heard Couzens accepted responsibility for the killing of Ms Everard but was not asked to enter a plea to a charge of murder.
Referencing the disappearance and death of the 33-year-old marketing executive directly, she said it sent “shockwaves through my communities and through my workforce.”
She added: “The Met was angry and shocked – everybody. What happened them was a catalyst for wider societal concern about the safety of women and girls. Police officers are also members of our communities and the public and we feel that acutely.
“Those events have brought into sharp focus that women and girls do not feel as safe as we want them to. Full stop.”
Ms Dick said that “London is one of the safest large cities in the world” and that crime figures suggested that “we are safer now from violence than we have (sic) in the past” but added that there is “a job to be done to improve trust and confidence in policing further for women across London.”
In Tuesday’s speech to the WI Ms Dick also announced a new “Walk and Talk Initiative.” She added: “We are currently piloting this in Clapham, we have female police officers who know the area really well and they are buddying up with women, members the public on street patrols.
“The Initiative has been developed by officers in that area and is part of proactive response to concerns from women. These concerns have become more heightened latterly.”
Her comments come after Ms Dick attracted criticism from across the political spectrum after disturbing scenes at a vigil for Ms Everard where officers were seen forcefully pulling women away from the peaceful event to honour the 33-year-old.
The shocking scenes led to calls for Ms Dick to resign and an outraged Priti Patel to demand a full report into the incident on March 13.
Shadow minister for domestic violence Jess Philips said at the time there were “so many missed opportunities” by the police, who had banned the gathering due to Covid regulations, to work with organisers to let the event go ahead safely.
She added: “They missed the opportunity at every turn until what we saw was a 5 ft 2 tall woman being pinned down with two men on her back.”