Sarah Everard: People stopped by lone police officer could 'wave down a bus' or 'run into a house', say Met

The force advised people who are concerned when approached by a lone police officer can shout out to a passer-by, run into a house, knock on a door, wave a bus down, or call 999.

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Police forces across the country will have to work “much harder” to win back public trust after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, a minister has said.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the case had struck a “devastating blow to the confidence that people have in police officers”, and he warned thousands of officers will need to do more so trust can be rebuilt.

Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life sentence on Thursday for the kidnap, rape and murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive, meaning he will never be freed from jail.

The Met has vowed to make the streets safer for women and girls as it said it is investigating whether Couzens committed more crimes before killing Ms Everard.

The force said it will no longer deploy plain clothes officers on their own after the Old Bailey heard Couzens had used lockdown rules and shown his warrant card to falsely arrest Ms Everard during the abduction.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick before she makes a statement to the media outside the Old Bailey in London, after police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was handed a whole life order at the Old Bailey for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick before she makes a statement to the media outside the Old Bailey in London, after police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was handed a whole life order at the Old Bailey for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

The force advised anyone who is concerned a police officer is not acting legitimately during an interaction to ask where the officer’s colleagues are; where they have come from; why they are there; and exactly why they are stopping or talking to them.

Anyone could verify the police officer by asking to hear their radio operator or asking to speak to the radio operator themselves, the force said, also suggesting suggested people who are concerned can shout out to a passer-by, run into a house, knock on a door, wave a bus down, or call 999.

It plans to send 650 new officers into busy public places and promised to “step up” patrols in areas identified as “hotspot” locations for violence and harassment.

Speaking on Sky News on Friday, Mr Malthouse said: “They recognise that this has struck a devastating blow to the confidence that people have in police officers but also in the Met Police in particular.

CCTV footage of Wayne Couzens speaking to Sarah Everard by the side of the road in Poynders Court, south London.
CCTV footage of Wayne Couzens speaking to Sarah Everard by the side of the road in Poynders Court, south London.

“For those thousands and thousands of police officers out there who will have to work harder – much harder – to win public trust, it is a very, very difficult time.”

Mr Malthouse said there are important lessons to learn from what happened.

“My job is effectively to help the Home Secretary hold the police to account about what went wrong, how this monster slipped through the net to become a police officer, how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

But he joined several other politicians and policing figures in rejecting mounting calls for Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign, adding: “She is a dedicated and talented and committed police officer who is driving the Metropolitan Police to ever greater standards of care and improvement and fighting crime.”

The Met is facing questions as to how Couzens was able to get a job with the force despite allegations made against him earlier in his career – prompting a wider debate over whether police vetting rules are strict enough.

Mr Malthouse told BBC Breakfast: “One of the lessons that we will need to learn is the allegations that were made against him – where those investigations led to, why they did not pop up on his vetting or have any impact in his employment with the Metropolitan Police.

“That is currently under investigation.”

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said trust in police is “not going to be built back overnight”, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is going to be built up if we see the Government and police forces starting to actually take violence against women and girls, and the complaints that women make day in, day out, seriously.”

Meanwhile, figures obtained by the i newspaper using a freedom of information request show 771 officers and staff from the Metropolitan Police have faced allegations of sexual misconduct since 2010.

According to the figures, over the period January 1 2010 to May 31 this year, 163 Met officers were arrested for sexual offences, with 38 of them convicted after appearing in court.

A total of 83 officers and staff have been dismissed without notice following allegations of sexual offences, the data also shows.