The Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner has said she is “devastated” to see bad behaviour by officers and that the force is “determined” to root it out.
Louisa Rolfe said that raising professional standards is “front and centre” of the Met’s updated action plan to tackle violence against women and girls, based on feedback received from abuse victims and charities.
Britain’s biggest force released the plan on Monday in an effort to rebuild trust with women and girls in London in the wake of a series of scandals, including criticism over its handling of the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer.
Speaking to the PA news agency at New Scotland Yard, the assistant commissioner said: “I’m devastated when I see poor behaviour and I’m really sad because I know that a very small number of people are attracted to policing for the wrong reasons, for the power the uniform might afford them and they might use that and abuse that power to abuse victims and that makes me very, very sad.
“But it makes me ever more determined to root it out and ensure that people can trust the police service because the vast majority of us care a great deal about this and we want to work with women and girls across London to ensure their safety.”
She said 50 more investigators have been added to the Met’s department for professional standards, and that the force is “acting swiftly and robustly” when poor behaviour by officers comes to light.
“There will be more offences and incidences coming to light; we’re an employer of more than 40,000 people in London, but we are really clear about our expectations,” she said.
The force has received more than 1,400 responses from the public on the plan after publishing a draft in November.
As well as eradicating unacceptable behaviour by officers, the plan sets out how the Met will target perpetrators and improve outcomes for victims in the justice system.
Ms Rolfe said: “We wanted women and girls in London to feel that they had influenced this plan so we’ve been consulting.
“They wanted us to be really clear about the work we’re doing to improve our professional standards and to root out bad behaviour in the Met, so we’ve put that front and centre of our plan”.
She said the public also wanted an improvement in the justice response to offences, and that the Met is working with the Crown Prosecution Service to increase charges for rape and domestic abuse and the use of protection orders.
The public have also asked that the Met involves victims and charities in shaping its priorities and scrutinising its work, she said.
“I would expect every specialist organisation who supports victims across London to have a good, strong, trusting relationship with officers at an operational level, so they don’t just meet us at senior meetings,” Ms Rolfe said.
As well as fury over the handling of the case of Ms Everard, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Met constable Wayne Couzens in March last year, the Met has faced criticism over the subsequent treatment by police of people at a vigil held in her memory during coronavirus restrictions.
The sharing of photographs of two murdered sisters, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, by officers, also sparked anger.
There has also been outrage over revelations that officers at Charing Cross police station shared violently racist, misogynist and homophobic messages, and concerns over the force’s ability to tackle corruption within its ranks.
Earlier on Monday, the Met said a serving officer was charged with sexually assaulting a colleague while on duty.
One in five women in the UK will experience sexual assault during her lifetime, while one in four will experience domestic abuse, according to the Met.
In London, recorded domestic abuse cases have increased by 26% in five years, and in 2020-21 alone, the force recorded more than 19,000 allegations of sexual offences.
Asked about how the force can rebuild trust in light of such offences, Ms Rolfe said: “I think it’s really important that we have a strong relationship with our communities but also a strong relationship with those brilliant charities and specialist organisations that support victims so that when they have concerns they can come forward to us and talk to us about any concerns they might have about a serving officer or member of staff.
“It’s really important that we’re seen to respond swiftly and robustly when concerns are raised. It’s important that we secure justice for victims.
“But it’s really important that we’re open about the challenges we have and that we take the public with us as we work incredibly hard to root this out”.
Met Commissioner Dame Cressida announced her resignation on February 10 after London Mayor Sadiq Khan made it clear he had no confidence in her plans to reform the service.
Asked if she had thrown her hat in the ring to succeed the commissioner, Ms Rolfe said: “I’ve not. I’m really happy with the job I have and I have plenty of work to do in London.”
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