Women's confidence in the police force will sink further still
When the Metropolitan Police refused to allow a peaceful protest against male violence yesterday on the grounds of Covid, many of us asked why this protest was banned. After all, several Black Lives Matter protests as well as football celebrations involving huge crowds were allowed to go ahead during the pandemic.
Despite being assured by the organisers that the protest would be Covid-secure, the police chiefs refused to engage. Policing is supposedly by consent. But the scenes of women being manhandled by police at a vigil for a murdered women were appalling.
I became a feminist on account of catastrophic police misogyny and failures back in the hunt for Peter Sutcliffe in the 1970s. In 1988, the mother of Sutcliffe’s 13th and final victim, Doreen Hill, took a case against West Yorkshire Police for neglect of duty. She argued that had officers done their jobs properly, Jacqueline would have still been alive. She failed, which meant that the police could not be held responsible for failure to protect the public. It was not until two victims of serial rapist John Worboys — who committed offences against over 100 women — challenged the Metropolitan Police over their failures to investigate him. In this case, the lawyers found another route to holding the police to account under the Human Rights Act.
Today, there are several high profile investigations into police officers that shine a light on misogyny within the force. For example, a number of police officers are currently being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct for photographing themselves with the bodies of two black women murdered in Wembley Park last year.
The Centre for Women’s Justice is currently taking a super-complaint against the police about the issue of domestic abuse by police officers and how it is investigated. CWJ has been contacted by 100 women who were victims of domestic abuse by serving police officers and let down the system. CWJ has also received enquiries from women who have been sexually assaulted by police officers when they have reported rape and sexual assaults.
In a statement AC Helen Ball said that police “did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.” What about safety of women from male violence? Perhaps the Met could commit to that sometime soon? I won’t be holding my breath.
It is nothing short of a national disgrace that a peaceful vigil against male violence towards women, prompted by a police officer suspected of the murder of a woman, should turn into a display of aggressive police behaviour towards women. Trust in the police is at an all-time low as far as those of us that campaign to end male violence are concerned, and unless there is root-and-branch reform, it will stay that way. The right to protest is a fundamental human right, enshrined in law, but not, it would seem, when women point the finger at violent men.