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Frontline calls on chiefs to give clear lead in Everard response

Chiefs are coming under pressure from frontline officers to give a decisive lead in the response to the killing of Sarah Everard.

Force leaders are being urged to take decisive steps to enable officers to action changes in response to the killing of Sarah Everard by a Met PC.

They are facing warnings from officers that they will need more resources and practical help to tackle violence against women and girls while making internal reforms and showing the public that a zero tolerance culture is being created.

Chief constables met on Wednesday to discuss the fall-out from the case of PC Wayne Couzens but the National Police Chiefs' Council ended without any official statement.

Discussions are focused on how to implement the HMI final report on Police Engagement with Women and Girls as well as reassurung the public and responding to the multiple reviews now under way.

The leaders of mid-ranking officers are due to meet to agree their next steps.

Police Superintendent’s Association leader Paul Griffiths said: “We will be bringing together superintendents from across the country this week to discuss how we can support this crucial agenda.”

The immediate response from the top has been to reassure the public that they can have confidence that cases involving violence against women would be investigated and offenders pursued.

Chief Constables have begun local media work aimed at reassuring the public following the conviction of a Metropolitan Police officer for the murder of Sarah Everard.

Norfolk’s Chief Constable, Paul Sanford, is among them. His key messages were that his force will be improving training for officers in investigations, addressing perpetrator behaviour and education on new offences such as coercive control.

He also made clear that work with partner agencies would be critical to improving outcomes in cases of violence aganist women and girls.

"We have already been working on ensuring high quality investigations, addressing perpetrators’ behaviours directly and educating police officers around both domestic abuse and sexual offences and areas such as coercive control," he said.

"This is not an issue that just involves the police and in order to make sustainable changes we are already working with partners to address the issue more broadly.

He added; "The majority of our police officers come to work to help and support victims and bring perpetrators to justice and they are as equally shocked and horrified as our communities. However, we all have a role to play in calling unacceptable behaviour into question whether that is within the constabulary itself or when offering our services and I will, as always, be looking to my staff to do this.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Nick Dean also made clear his officers were determined to make a difference.

He said: “At a time such as this, it is important that we do not lose sight of what we are here to do – to continue to ‘police’ with the utmost integrity and impartiality.” 

“I am confident that we will continue to do so, even if the trust and confidence that we enjoy here in Cambridgeshire is challenged.” 

But as Chiefs began facing the public, frontline officers called for support to ensure they can manage expectations from the public – and prevent further issues being caused.

But they also highlighted a lack of investment now and during the austerity era has been one of the causes of the current crisis.

Response officers have begun to seek reassurances that they will get support in changing how they work – particularly those having to transport offenders while lone crewing.

The calls from officers followed the advice given to the public on situations where they are in contact with a lone officer.

Those in forces where single crewing is significant are especially alarmed – and have blamed a lack of resources.

“Getting a van isn’t easy and we’re one of the bigger forces,” one shared on social media. “Loads transport alone which I personally think is insane in the current climate.”

Another warned: “My 'colleague' is the cage camera and my body camera. We're too short-staffed to send two officers to booking on every arrest."

A Police Scotland officer share that years of under-investment has left colleagues vulnerable. The force has only now begun rolling out body-worn video.

“Large parts of rural Scotland are policed from single manned stations. A solution is to fit all cars with interior cameras. Many dash cams have that feature,” they said.

As chiefs considered their response, other senior figures warned that a whole service response, rather than each force waiting to implement recommendations was the only way forward.

CC Andy Marsh, new Chief Executive of the College of Policing said: “The announcement of an inquiry into the profoundly worrying issues surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard is a positive step and one that I hope will drive a substantial change across policing.

“It is important that the inquiry does not get distracted by single issues but fully considers how the culture and leadership in policing best protects women and girls."

He added: “We will offer any assistance we can to the inquiry. In the meantime, policing must continue to change and our work to help deliver those changes must go on.”

The middle ranking officers, who will bear the brunch of demand from the top and frontline, also made clear forces would have to work together.

PSA President Paul Griffiths said: “It's essential that we come together to tackle violence against women and girls, looking at issues including those within policing culture, through to everything that has enabled this to become part of wider society. Our association is committed to providing a positive and meaningful influence on this work.”

HMI Inspector Zoe Billingham warned uncomfortable truths would have to be confronted by forces as part of the response: that the conduct of some male officers is unacceptable.    

She said: “As policing looks to repair the fractured bond of trust with the public let’s remember this: if the police operate in a culture that truly prioritises tackling violence against women and girls then rooting out misogynists and predators in policing will be so much easier.”

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