Guest blog by Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party
There’s something I will never get used to as the leader of the Women’s Equality Party: attending vigils for women lost to male violence. The memory of these women is on my mind and in my heart every single day as we push for ending violence against women to be at the top of the political and policing agenda. A request so obvious and so basic, that should be met with overwhelming enthusiasm from our police and political leaders every single time (but isn’t).
Nicole Smallman. Bibaa Henry. Sarah Everard. I carry their names, and many others, with me in all the work I do as we campaign against the toxic culture that infects police forces across the country and the political apathy that has enabled it to fester.
I am sometimes accused of lacking gratitude or compassion for the thousands of police officers who are devoted to public service. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. My mother, a black woman in her 50s at the time, served in the Met Police for seven years. Officers like her are also casualties of the institutional and cultural dysfunction that undermines the reputation, integrity and effectiveness of policing; to the detriment of us all.
With Cressida Dick’s resignation, it is tempting to think change is on the horizon, but this is the very moment where we cannot get complacent about truly transforming the Met. While it was absolutely right that Dick stepped down, her departure doesn’t mean these issues have gone away. Nor does it let our political leaders off the hook.
The Home Secretary and the Mayor of London are responsible for setting the Met’s policing priorities. Cressida Dick has rightly been criticised for her failures, but she mustn’t be used as a scapegoat. Now it’s time for Priti Patel and Sadiq Khan to transform London’s police by finally listening to the campaigners and women’s groups who have been calling for a radical overhaul of the force. The first step must be to explicitly acknowledge and address the institutional nature of the misogyny, racism, and other forms of prejudice that stop the police from fulfilling their basic duty to protect and serve.
Imagine a world where our policing system is designed and delivered using a trauma-informed approach that places victims at the heart of its work. One where officers no longer develop in a hypermasculine environment that values brute force, lad culture, and aggression over compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence. Imagine a world where officers serve their communities with mutual trust and respect instead of violent, sometimes fatal, over-policing.
I am hopeful that we can and will end violence against women and girls. It is impossible to accept anything less. A vital step towards a world where everyone can live free from the fear or threat of violence is to change how institutions respond to it – and that includes how they prevent it from escalating too.
If the Home Secretary were to launch an inquiry into police misogyny that would compel all forces, not just the Met, to face up to their shortcomings; if the Mayor of London were to unveil holistic, ambitious, and properly funded policing goals to address violence against women; if the new Commissioner openly committed to tackling the internal decay and re-setting the culture of the Met; they could set an example for police forces across the country. A cooperative approach that leaves party politics, blame shifting, and point scoring at the door, for the benefit of all.
What we have now is an opportunity. All we need is the political will.
Good Law Project is currently supporting Kristina O’Conner’s case against the Met Police over its continuing failure to hold its officers to account, and to compel the Met to set out concrete steps to address the misogyny that is endemic in the force. Read her story here.