Police have been accused of being “dangerous, patronising and victim blaming” following a controversial warning to women in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder.
London’s Metropolitan Police have published new guidance to the public over what actions should be taken if someone fears an officer is not genuine or acting legitimately.
The string of suggestions included shouting to a passer-by, running to a house, knocking on a door or calling 999.
It follows mounting pressure to explain how violence against women will be prevented and trust in police regained after serving officer Wayne Couzens brutally killed and raped Ms Everard.
“Our response to issues raised by the crimes of Wayne Couzens”, a message on its website is titled.
“The full horrific details of his crimes are deeply concerning and raise entirely legitimate questions. This is the most horrific of crimes, but we recognise this is part of a much bigger and troubling picture,” the statement read.
It added if someone is approached by a single plain clothes officer, they should "seek further reassurance of that officer's identify and intentions" by asking "some very searching questions of that officer".
The recommended questions include: "Where are your colleagues? Where have you come from? Why are you here? And exactly why are you stopping or talking to me?"
The statement continued: "If after all of that you feel in real and imminent danger and you do not believe the officer is who they say they are, for whatever reason, then I would say you must seek assistance — shouting out to a passer-by, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or if you are in the position to do so calling 999.”
The previous paragraph has since been amended, with references to running into a house, knocking on a door or waving a bus down deleted.
Couzens, who pleaded guilty in July to Ms Everard's kidnapping, rape and murder, was given a full life order on Thursday (local time) – the first police officer to receive such a sentence.
Outrage over ‘disgusting’ and ‘patronising’ advice
The warning has sparked fury among women, prompting police to delete a section of the statement.
Patsy Stevenson, who was arrested at a vigil for Ms Everard in the days following her murder, has taken to Twitter, accusing police of victim blaming.
“Telling us that we should scream and draw attention to ourselves, or call 999 to check, or wave down a bus, is like saying she could have stopped it. She couldn’t have. This was not down to her. We should be able to trust that a police officer is not going to murder us,” she wrote.
The post was swiftly inundated with hundreds of comments, taking aim at the controversial advice.
“It's mind blowing that they think this in any way addresses the problem,” one person wrote.
Telling us that we should scream and draw attention to ourselves, or call 999 to check, or wave down a bus, is like saying she could have stopped it. She couldn’t have. This was not down to her. We should be able to trust that a police officer is not going to murder us.
— Patsy Stevenson (@PatsyeStevenson) October 1, 2021
Another dubbed the suggestions as “ridiculous”: “What’s the bus driver going to do? Ask to see a warrant card? And how do you call 999 on your phone when your hands are cuffed behind your back?”
“Same old story. ‘Women have to change behaviour because men can't be expected to.’ It's insulting to everyone,” someone else wrote.
Dawn Butler, the UK’s first black female government minister, also lashed out on social media.
“The problem with the police advice on how to handle police is that they are admitting there are more Wayne Couzens in the police service. So what I want to know is, how are the MET and other police forces going to flag and flush them out? They should be scared, not us,” the Facebook post read, which had been shared more than 300 times at the time of writing.
“Why do they persist with this dangerous, patronising victim blaming?” one person added.
One Facebook User declared: “It is absolutely disgusting!”
Another called for review of all serving officers, writing: “Yet again the onus is on women to take responsibility.”
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