A former police chief has claimed it has taken the death of a white woman for the issue of trust in policing to be addressed.
Sue Fish, the ex-chief of Nottinghamshire Police, said every woman she knows would have got into the car with the Met Police firearms officer who used his warrant card to kidnap Sarah Everard and then raped and murdered her.
Ms Fish also slammed Dame Cressida Dick for a lack of action in tackling misogyny in the Metropolitan Police, saying its safety guidelines have ‘absolutely no insight whatsoever’.
She rubbished them as ‘completely absurd’ and ‘impractical’ as fury grows at the handling of the Sarah Everard case.
Scotland Yard bosses are believed to remain sceptical about recording misogyny as a hate crime despite the majority of other chief constables backing the move.
Some senior officers are said to think the reform – drafted in March after Ms Everard’s death – is not needed because present legislation is adequate.
Ms Fish’s powerful intervention was echoed by Alice Vinten, who served in the Met for more than 10 years as a constable before leaving the force in 2015.
She hit out at the ‘lads culture’ during her time there and said women were still worried to report concerns about their colleagues.
But she was shot down by former Met Commissioner Lord Blair, who said: ‘It simply cannot be the case that this lads culture of the 1970s is surviving everywhere.’
Meanwhile politicians including former Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and current Home Secretary Priti Patel also weighed into the debate.
Mr Javid today called for a reform to policing in London but said he backed officers who do ‘an amazing job’.
Mr Johnson last night savaged the ‘infuriating’ failure of the Metropolitan Police to take violence against women seriously.
And Ms Patel ordered police to take harassment and flashing more seriously and dismissed the idea that they were ‘low level crimes’.
Sue Fish (left), ex-chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, blasted Dame Cressida’s (right) force’s safety guidelines as having ‘absolutely no insight whatsoever’
She rubbished them as ‘completely absurd’ and ‘impractical’ as fury grows at the handling of the Sarah Everard (pictured) case
Ms Fish told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think pretty much every woman that I know, and certainly me, would have got into that car with Wayne Couzens.’
She said failing to do so means the offence of obstructing justice has been committed, as she warned there is a ‘real imbalance of power’ in terms of a police officer versus a member of the public – particularly a woman on her own.
‘But also we think about communities of colour, the black community in particular, and this has been a significant issue,’ Ms Fish added.
‘Trust (in police) in the black community has been poor to non-existent for many years, and yet it’s taken the death of a white woman to address, well, start to address, this issue, this very fundamental issue of trust in policing.’
Government ministers and Scotland Yard have been accused of having a tone-deaf response to violence against women and girls after a string of suggestions over what action the public should take if they fear an officer is not acting legitimately.
Ms Fish was also the latest former police chief to take a shot at Dame Cressida, slamming a lack of action in tackling misogyny in the Met.
She called the guidelines ‘completely absurd’ and ‘impractical’, adding the force ‘have absolutely no insight whatsoever’.
Ms Fish, who was chief constable with Nottinghamshire Police in 2016 when it recorded misogyny as a hate crime, said it made a ‘significant difference’.
She told Newsnight: ‘This isn’t about an individual officer. This is about a prevailing culture within policing and it has to be broken.
‘It has to have been broken many years ago.’ She called for a public inquiry around policing and misogyny.
But the Metropolitan Police is said to be sceptical about making misogyny a hate crime, the Times reports.
Some senior officers are understood to believe the legislation as it currently is written is adequate.
This is despite the government making it a key reform for all forces in March after Ms Everard was killed.
Out of the 43 forces in England and Wales, 11 have already followed the new guideline.
But chief constables are believed to be waiting for the Home Office to issue specific guidance on how to record the offences.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council debated it at a meeting earlier this week, with sources revealing the majority supported the change.
Former Met commissioner Lord Blair (pictured) said: ‘It simply cannot be the case that this sort of lads culture of the 1970s is surviving everywhere’
But the Met is said to be unsure. Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House said this summer Dame Cressida needed to be ‘convinced’ and is said to hold the same views.
Despite this, Ms Vinten, who served in the Met for more than 10 years as a constable before leaving the force in 2015, said ‘it was very much a lads culture’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme women were worried to report concerns about their colleagues because this was still ‘stigmatised’.
Former Met commissioner Lord Blair disagreed, saying: ‘It simply cannot be the case that this sort of lads culture of the 1970s is surviving everywhere.’
But he admitted Ms Everard’s case and the fact her killer Wayne Couzens was in the police had been a ‘seismic shock for policy and it needs to be addressed’.
He told the Today programme: ‘I think the most important thing about the murder of Sarah Everard is that comparative cases are things like Dr Shipman, the Soham murders, the collapse of Barings bank, something that was so simply shocking – how can this have happened.
‘The response of the Met needs to be the response to those kind of crises which is an independent inquiry to try to discover what are the processes that allowed this man – who’s obviously a manipulative, homicidal maniac – to become a police officer.’
He continued: ‘But we do have to discover what is fact. The claim Couzens was called a rapist by his colleagues, the trial judge said this was the best murder investigation he’d every seen and that investigative team found no record of that phrase. Yet that’s sort of circulating around as a fact when it isn’t a fact.’
He added of any future inquiry: ‘This needs an absolutely forensic outside look.
‘Something has gone wrong in vetting perhaps, although one thing I would also want to add is that although they discovered the car involved in the indecent exposure belonged to a Wayne Couzens, the police national computer doesn’t tell you he was a police officer.
‘Are we going to do this for every citizen of the country? What their occupation is… if you started to do that for police there would be calls for all occupations to do that.’
He went on: ‘I don’t necessarily think [an inquiry] should be lawyer or judge led. It needs to be someone with an idea about organisational culture…
‘I’m just saying I’m not sure it’s a judicial issue. I think it’s much more an organisational culture and internal procedures issue.’
Politicians also weighed into the row, with former Home Secretary and now Health Secretary Mr Javid backing calls for an independent inquiry.
He told Sky News: ‘The police are there to protect us and what I saw as Home Secretary day in day out the police were doing an amazing job looking after the British people, protecting people.
‘I saw things they did, quite heroic things, to save lives, a countless number of lives across the UK.
‘But it’s because of that, because they’re there to protect us that that this appalling crime has had the shock it has across the country and rightly so.
‘No one would have thought a police officer would be capable of this and that’s why I think it is right there needs to be reform.
‘I can’t tell you – I wish I could – exactly what what that should be. I think it should be looked at properly and carefully and the police do need to be part of that reform.’
He added: ‘Look I’m a proud father of four children, which includes three girls, including two teenage girls and I think as any parent in the country over the past few days especially we would have all thought about our own families.’
Meanwhile Prime Minister Johnson savaged the ‘infuriating’ failure of the Metropolitan Police to take violence against women seriously.
He said the public are right to question whether police are failing women in the wake of the damning revelations of Ms Everard‘s case and the missed opportunities.
Mr Johnson held talks with Dame Cressida Thursday about how to boost the low rate of prosecutions for rape in the hope of removing dangerous men from the streets.
He told The Times: ‘Are the police taking this issue seriously enough? It’s infuriating. I think the public feel that they aren’t and they’re not wrong.’
‘Do I fundamentally believe the police are on our side? Yes, absolutely they are. Can you trust the police? Yes you can.
‘But there is an issue about how we handle sexual violence, domestic violence, the sensitivity, the diligence, the time, the delay, the confusion about your mobile phone. That’s the thing we need to fix.’
Only three per cent of rape cases reported to police last year resulted in a suspect being charged, a record low.
The government has pledged to reverse the decline and set itself a target of 13 per cent.
Earlier, Mr Johnson ordered the authorities to ‘come down hard’ on officers found guilty of misconduct as a watchdog investigates multiple serving cops for allegedly exchanging misogynistic, racist and vile messages in a WhatsApp group with Couzens.
It emerged last night that Wayne Couzens was named as a suspect in a sex offence 72 hours before he killed Sarah Everard
He said on Friday: ‘I do believe in the police. I do think that we can trust the police. And I think the police do a wonderful, wonderful job.’
He added that ‘hundreds of thousands’ of officers would be ‘absolutely heartsick’.
But he said the Government needed to get to the bottom of ‘what on earth’ happened to ensure nothing like it occurred again.
Ms Patel ordered police to take harassment and flashing more seriously and dismissed the idea that they were ‘low level crimes’.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the Home Secretary said forces have been given ample resources to treat all reports of crime adequately.
She said: ‘I would say to all women: give voice to these issues, please… There is something so corrosive in society if people think that it’s OK to harass women verbally, physically, and in an abusive way on the street.
‘I want women to have the confidence to call it out. I don’t see all of this as low level. I don’t want to see postcode lotteries around the country.
‘This is a very clear message to police to raise the bar: treat everybody in the right way.
‘Make sure that when these crimes or concerns are reported, people are treated with respect, dignity and seriously.’
Earlier, Ms Patel said those in power needed to come together to say that the current climate was ‘unacceptable’.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, she said: ‘I don’t just say this as Home Secretary. I think women have basically said that’s it – enough is enough.
‘This was a monster that absolutely abused power and authority and that’s an absolute scandal.’
Despite the concerns about the Met’s failings, Mr Johnson backed Dame Cressida though there are understood to be growing frustrations in the Home Office.
The PM said he wants to make sure women feel more confident in how their complaints will be handled going forward.
Meanwhile a human rights lawyer said she is tired of hearing police forces say they will ‘learn lessons’ in the wake of a tragedy, claiming institutions often put their own reputations first.
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who chairs the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland, said women experience harassment, stalking and flashing on a daily basis.
The Labour peer said the police must take this seriously and not treat such incidents as trivial.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Baroness Kennedy said: ‘Why should mothers have to tell their daughters when they reach puberty that they have to be careful going out and about, that it’s passed on like some ritual, telling people the facts of life.
‘The facts of life that they’re going to be exposed to this kind of abusive behaviour.
‘It really has to stop. And we have to be having better conversations amongst men, and men have to take responsibility for some of this, because in the daily round, women experience harassment, stalking, people flashing at them.
‘It really has to end. And the police have to take it seriously and not see it as being trivial.’
She pointed out Couzens, who was given a whole life sentence this week for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, had already given out ‘alarm signals’ to colleagues.
The police watchdog previously said he was linked to a flashing incident in 2015 and two more just days before he killed Ms Everard.
Baroness Kennedy said: ‘Here was a man who already had sent out alarm signals to colleagues, who… was on the inquiry lists in relation to flashing behaviour, and yet the police, somehow, are forgiving of that.
‘None of it’s acceptable. What we know is that institutions often will put their own reputations first.
‘They also have come together to protect each other. That’s got to end.’
Baroness Kennedy said often things start with incidents such as flashing, being abusive to women in public spaces, and men feeling they can get away with it.
‘And I’m afraid we have to be looking at male behaviour more generally, but the police certainly have to be taking women’s complaints more seriously than they have done.
‘This has been going on for many, many years and I’m rather tired of hearing police forces saying we’re going to learn lessons from some tragedy.
‘The lessons don’t seem to be learned, and the lessons are that women’s suffering of this kind of stuff has to stop, and women up and down the country are saying that.
‘And you have to listen, and police forces are not doing that.’
She said this will require more resourcing, more police, more money put into policing and the court system, and better processes of training police and those in the justice system.
To add to the Met’s failings, it emerged last night that Couzens was named as a suspect in a sex offence 72 hours before he killed Sarah Everard.
CCTV evidence of a car involved in an alleged flashing incident at a drive-thru McDonald’s in February this year generated the name ‘Wayne Couzens’ as a suspect on Metropolitan Police systems – and provided his address.
But officers failed to realise he was a serving officer and further inquiries were not made until after Ms Everard’s disappearance on March 3.
It had been known Couzens’ car was reported by staff at a McDonald’s restaurant in Swanley, Kent, after two female workers said they had been flashed by a motorist there on February 7 and again on February 27. The complaint was made on February 28.
But last night it emerged the CCTV evidence showing his number plate had actually brought up Couzens’ name as a suspect on Met police systems.
Yesterday a McDonald’s worker who was flashed by the sexual predator blasted officers for ‘not acting quickly enough’.
The worker, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The police took our statements and took away CCTV.
‘If they had taken this more seriously, they could easily have figured out that he was a policeman who had committed these crimes.
‘The police had three days to stop him but didn’t. It could have stopped him from doing a lot worse.’