March 2021 is imprinted in the minds of every woman across the UK. It was when we first heard about the horrific details of the brutal kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of off-duty Metropolitan police officer, Wayne Couzens.
It was a watershed moment for many. The levels of fear we have as women out at a certain time, the kind of anxiety that makes us carry keys as we walk home just to make sure we can unlock the door quickly, or the worry that forces us to turn on the live location on our phones so that our loved ones know exactly where we are, is not empty paranoia.
Whilst it seemed the entire country was waking up to the rampant misogyny still prevalent, there was a failure to fully acknowledge the police’s fundamental role in perpetuating it. Not to mention the institution’s endemic corruption, racism and classism, that all worked in tandem in orchestrating the murder of Sarah Everard.
As the Casey Review hit the headlines this week, it confirmed that this tandem is indeed the systemic machinery that keeps the Met moving.
The 363-page review that Baroness Casey was appointed to lead following Everard's killing, highlighted disturbing policing realities, including that ‘rape may as well be legal in London’ due to the Met’s careless approach to tackling such crimes. There were revelations that the force ignored so many rape and sex crime cases that fridges and freezers containing DNA evidence were left to overflow and evidence was contaminated. This in turn led to cases being closed without justice being delivered to the victims.
The review also showed how racism, sexism, and homophobia are as rampant as ever within the Met, where a culture of prejudice and discrimination festers, all of which are weighted with overwhelming evidence.
London’s Metropolitan police was founded in 1829 by former British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, who was also one of the founders of the Conservative Party, and came from a long line of aristocrats. The institution we know today as the ‘police’ in the UK, was established in the space of a few decades between 1825-1855, not due to an increase in crime as many might think, but instead to respond to ‘large crowds’ needing to be dispersed in the interest of the ruling classes. Indeed, this was the period when workers began unionising and organising what we know today as trade unions. The police was therefore essentially created to contain and criminalise workers.
Throughout the Met’s existence it seems misogyny has been systematic, from the torture and arrest of suffragettes fighting for women’s right to vote in the early 1900’s, to the existing force having more than half of its officers guilty of sexual misconduct against women, but nevertheless continuing to serve.
Couzens had been flagged on several occasions for indecent exposure, including just six days before he murdered Everard. Furthermore, his colleagues designated him the nickname ‘the rapist’. One can’t help but wonder if all of these issues were acted on, whether Everard could have been saved.
Last year, Couzens was finally charged with a life sentence. However, at the same time revelations came to light about one of his colleagues who worked in the same command. David Carrick, now known to be one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, is being investigated for 85 serious offences, including 48 rapes, all whilst using and exploiting his police powers in the way that Couzens did.
The Met’s spokespeople trying to downplay the lethal levels of misogyny within the force by describing both Couzens and Carrick as ‘bad apples’, could not be further from the truth. In reality, the force is rotten to its very core.
It is reported that over 1,000 Met officers accused of domestic or sexual violence are under ‘review’, with a record number of over 1,600 reports of sexual misconduct being made against active officers.
Even when women are targeted by other abusers, like Shana Grice who was stalked by a former partner and eventually brutally murdered, they are still not protected. The 19-year-old reported her stalker five times to police, and was even fined for "wasting police time".
Unsurprisingly, the Met, made up of mostly white and male officers, also has a problem with racism. The expansive murder investigation of Sarah Everard prompted questions about why other cases, including that of Blessing Olusegun, a 21 year old woman of colour from Sussex who was found murdered months before Everard, did not receive the same police time and resources.
The accusations of systematic racism were amplified more recently following the killing of yet another black man - 24 year old father-to-be Chris Kaba, who was shot dead by a Met officer in Streatham in September 2022. The officer responsible for Kaba’s murder was only suspended and not charged for taking Kaba’s life.
Lest we forget the Macpherson Report (1999), which highlighted the institutional racism prevalent within the Met, that people of colour and migrant communities had long fought against.
Then we have the Met’s rampant corruption. One unsolved murder case that lies at the core of police corruption is the murder of Daniel Morgan in 1987. Morgan was a private investigator and father of two who was investigating the Met’s links to organised crime, until he was barbarically murdered with an axe in Chelsea, London. In 2021, 35 years after his murder, following a £16 million public inquiry, no one has been charged but both the historic and current institutional corruption of the organisation was highlighted. Furthermore, it was stated that the former Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, “may have breached police standards of professional behaviour by not providing full and exceptional disclosure to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel”.
The Morgan case also exposed the role of the mainstream British press in their collusion with the Police. Tabloids like the News of the World were accused of being complicit in police corruption and misleading the public about Morgan’s murder. We saw similar treatment towards the Hillsborough disaster, as press and police colluded to conceal police failings and misconduct by vilifying the victims instead of holding police accountable.
When statistics reveal that police in England & Wales ‘solve’ or end up charging someone in only 7% of all crimes reported, it only reinforces that the institution doesn’t exist to protect us. Instead of investigating and solving crimes it seems officers spend their time protecting palaces, banks, statues of Winston Churchill, kettling protestors and holding racist stop and searches.
Worse still, history shows the organisation’s filled with sexual misconduct, collusion in organised crime, the lynching of people of colour, rape and murder most of which takes place with absolute impunity. All the whilst the interests of those at the top are protected.
The Met is clearly not reformable, and if we are to deliver real justice for Sarah Everard, Blessing Olusegun, Shana Grice and many others, we must fight for an entirely new system, which includes abolishing the police entirely.
Farrah Koutteineh is head of Public & Legal Relations at the London-based Palestinian Return Centre, and is also the founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.2 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous peoples rights, anti-establishment movement, women’s rights and climate justice.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return
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