More than 35 reports of sexual violence or domestic abuse made against Merseyside Police officers
There have been 38 reports of sexual violence or domestic abuse made against Merseyside Police officers over the past five years, it has been revealed.
The reports relate to incidents regarding members of the public and colleagues.
Ian Critchley, Merseyside Police Deputy Chief Constable, said that the force was in the process of reviewing vetting of officers and was also working with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) team around protecting women in the workplace from abuse.
Chief Constable Critchley spoke about the statistics in response to questioning by PCC Emily Spurrell at her scrutiny meeting on supporting victims and safer communities at the end of November.
He said: “We’ve dealt with 38 referrals in five years.
“The majority of which are domestic abuse cases, some of which on members of the public, some of which on colleagues, we track all those through.
“They take a high priority and they are investigated as crime offences by dedicated professionals from public protection units working with the professional standards department.
“There have been a number of convictions at court in relation to those and also dismissals from the organisation.”
He added: “Clearly, a key part of this is our enhanced vetting work we comply with national vetting process, but we are in the process of reviewing that.
“When cases are referred to us we ask the public and colleagues to refer with confidence in reporting, anonymously if need be.”
Advice to the public about officers
Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, who also attended the meeting, said members of the public in Merseyside had been offered advice when being approached by officers.
The guidance comes following the conviction of Met Police office Wayne Couzens who abducted and murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in South London in on 3 March.
She said that if plain clothes police are working on their own the public should ask to see a copy of their warrant card.
“Ask them to radio into the control room, if people are still not happy ring into the control room themselves. The same advice for uniformed staff was given,” she explained.
She said that guidance has also been issued to police staff asking them to have patience with the community, to “understand the way people are feeling” and expect additional requests around verification.
Culture within Merseyside Police
The PCC questioned whether Merseyside Police was embedding the right culture within the force around inappropriate behaviour and encouraging people to come forward.
Chief Constable Kennedy said: “I’ve been very clear since becoming Chief eight months ago around behaviours and what is acceptable.”
She said Merseyside Police is launching a leadership framework for everyone within the organisation, which is based on the code of ethics from the College of Policing and linked in with the Violence Against Women and Girls and inclusion agendas: “For me, leadership starts with self, our behaviours and how we treat each other.”
She added that she wanted to create a culture where staff had the confidence to “call out” behaviour that was not in line with the framework.
Merseyside PCC’s response
Following the meeting PCC Emily Spurrell said it is vital the police are transparent when “officers fall below the standard expected of them and that swift and thorough action is taken to root it out”.
She said: “We know that women’s trust in the police across the country has been shaken in the light of the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, so it is essential we demonstrate exactly what is being done to tackle these issues, to support victims and survivors and bring perpetrators to justice here in Merseyside.
“Given the devastating fact that two women, Malak Adabzadeh, 47, and 12-year-old Ava White, were killed in our city on the same day earlier this month this was particularly timely. It is vital that we look at everything we are doing to try and prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again in our region.
“The Chief Constable and her leadership team gave very detailed and thorough explanations into their work to respond to reports of crimes including rape and sexual violence, domestic abuse, hate crime and the exploitation of children, and the support they offer those who have been affected. As well as responding to my scrutiny, they went into detail to answer questions submitted in advance by the public.
“I also questioned Chief Officers about allegations of domestic abuse and sexual violence made against their own officers and staff and how they have been handled. It is vital the police are transparent when officers fall below the standard expected of them by the public and that swift and thorough action is taken to root it out.
“It is clear that any such allegation is taken extremely seriously, and a robust approach is taken to investigate these reports. It was encouraging to hear that the force are reviewing their vetting procedures and I was also reassured by the Chief Constable’s clear stance on this issue.
“I welcome her commitment to embedding the right culture across the organisation, making sure any unacceptable behaviour is challenged and a zero tolerance approach is taken when any employee does not meet those high standards.
“Crucially, it was clear from the answers provided by Chief Officers that they are not complacent. While a huge amount of good work is done across the organisation every day, they were open and transparent that there is still much more to be done and they are committed to continually improving the service offered to our communities.
“It is my job to hold the Chief Constable to account on how all of this work is delivered and I will continue to monitor this closely through my scrutiny programme.”