All officers accused of violence against women and girls must immediately be suspended if the Metropolitan Police wants to restore trust and confidence, the head of a leading domestic abuse charity has said.
A refusal by the force’s commissioner to use the term ‘institutional’ when it comes to the finding that the Met is racist, misogynist and homophobic has been branded “deeply concerning” by Refuge’s chief executive Ruth Davison.
Ms Davison, who leads the largest specialist domestic abuse organisation in the UK, said there still appears to be a denial from the Met’s leadership.
She told the PA news agency: “I think the most concerning thing today is not the findings in the report, as horrendous as they are, it is the response that we’re hearing from Sir Mark Rowley, who this morning in media interviews is saying that he does not accept there is institutional misogyny, racism or homophobia in the force.
“And I think that culture of denial is spoken to in the Casey review. She recognises that it’s there, that the police will protect themselves first, leaving Londoners, particularly female Londoners, further behind.
“And the fact that we are still in a position this morning where the response from the Met is one of denial is deeply concerning to me.
“We have had so many reports and the gap between the rhetoric that violence against women and girls is now a strategic policing priority and the reality on the ground is widening every day.”
She said their own research had shown that only one in five of the women they work with “will ever want to report to the police because trust and confidence is so low”.
She added: “The denial, the minimisation, is what is deeply worrying to me. The content of the report is not a surprise.”
Ms Davison called for “decisive action” to be taken against officers accused of violence against women and girls, as well as an overhaul of vetting procedures and training of officers.
She said: “I think the police have to start by restoring the trust and confidence of females living and working in London.
“I would do that by immediately suspending any of these officers who faced this kind of accusation of violence against women and girls. Suspend and investigate and then swiftly dismiss anyone who is found to be guilty.
“I would thoroughly overhaul vetting, you can see that that’s condemned in the report and we’ve been saying for some time, we are deeply concerned about the vetting at entry to the force and then the vetting throughout the career of a police officer. That needs fundamental re-examination.
“We deserve when we go forward to report a crime to know that the person we are reporting to is not themselves a criminal, is not an abuser. We deserve to be met with empathy and understanding.”
Ms Davison referred to figures showing more than 100 Met officers working as normal despite being investigated for sexual or domestic abuse crimes.
A Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by the Liberal Democrats and reported by the BBC showed that as of February 3, of the 548 officers being investigated for sexual misconduct and domestic abuse claims, 111 were working as normal, a further 236 have been placed on restricted duties, 71 have been suspended and 97 have left the force.
Asked how soon change needs to happen, Ms Davison said: “We can’t wait. This has to happen immediately. If there is the desire to make change and an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the problem, you can make radical change quickly.
“Two women a week, every single week die at the hands of their current or former partner. And that is not good enough. Women are dying is the reality and others are not coming forward and getting the justice they deserve for the horrendous crimes committed against them.
“So I would say that what we need to see within six months is that the charge rate and the conviction rates on all of these crimes against women and girls need to start to show a trend. They are all in decline.
“Reporting is up and yet all of the further steps where these are taken seriously by police and actually the criminal justice system serves out what it should do for victims, all of that is in decline that needs reversing and it needs reversing rapidly.
“But if they want to suspend everyone who is currently being investigated for these kinds of crimes, they can do that immediately.”
Sir Mark told Sky News there are “toxic individuals” in the Met, with some people suspended and others who are under investigation and he insisted “we are rooting them out of this organisation”.
He declined to give a number on how many and said an update on this work will be published by the end of March.