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Misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour 'is prevalent' says HMIC

The review examined 725 vetting files in eight forces including those linked to Wayne Couzens

An HMICFRS report has concluded that misogyny remains prevalent in some forces despite the service being given "ample warning that behaviours, cultures and processes need to change". 

The inspection - which looked at vetting and misconduct - assessed the forces linked to Wayne Couzens (the Met, Kent and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary) as well as Cumbria, South Wales, Nottinghamshire, Dorset and Devon and Cornwall.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr stressed that there have been warning signs about the quality of vetting which haven't been heeded including a HMICFRS report from 2019 which highlighted the issue of officers abusing their position for sex.

Mr Parr said: “It is too easy for the wrong people to both join and stay in the police. If the police are to rebuild public trust and protect their own female officers and staff vetting must be much more rigorous and sexual misconduct taken more seriously.”

Although he could not estimate overall how many such officers are still serving, he told reporters: “It seems reasonable for me to say that over the last three or four years, the number of people recruited over whom we would raise significant questions is certainly in the hundreds, if not low thousands… it’s not in the tens, it’s at least in the hundreds.”

The review looked at 11,277 police officers and staff, examined 725 vetting files, considered 264 complaint and misconduct investigations as well as interviewing 42 people.

Inspectors found cases where officers were transferring between forces despite a history of “concerning intelligence, complaints or misconduct allegations”.

It also highlighted incidents which should have been classed as gross misconduct were assessed as a lower-level disciplinary matter or “not treated as misconduct at all”.

According to the report, 131 cases were identified where inspectors described the decisions made as “questionable at best”. In 68 of these, they disagreed with the force’s decision to grant vetting clearance.

It said: “We found officers and staff with criminal records, or suspicions that they had committed crime (including some serious crime), substantial undischarged debt, or family members linked to organised crime.

“In other cases, officers and staff had given false or incomplete information to the vetting unit. We also found officers who, despite a history of attracting complaints or allegations of misconduct, successfully transferred between police forces. This is wholly unsatisfactory.”

Personal accounts revealed instances of senior male officers pursuing women in lower ranks for sex, male officers viewing pornography at work, and sexual comments being made about victims and female members of the public.

One of the issues highlighted was that prejudicial and improper behaviour towards women "is not treated as seriously" as other forms of discrimination, and as such some forces are merely “paying lip service” to the idea of cultural change.

The report also revealed that many women fear the repercussions - both career and social - of reporting such behaviours, and that reported allegations rarely end in a satisfying outcome.

The report also revealed that forces are "not doing enough to collect relevant intelligence"; of the 236 complaint and misconduct cases reviewed that featured misogyny, only 15 originated from force intelligence. 

There was also a failure to make wider inquiries, with one case study revealing that a force only checked the officer’s conduct and complaint history after a female student officer complained about text messages sent by her tutor constable.

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