THOUSANDS of mourners gathered on Saturday to pay their respects to murdered Sarah Everard at Clapham Common bandstand.
But cops have been accused of heavy handedness after women were dragged from a vigil for tragic Sarah while trying to impose Covid distancing measures.
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Student Patsy Stevenson was wrestled to the ground and arrested, telling GMB this morning: "I was more scared than I've ever been."
Questions had already been raised over the Met Police’s handling of the traumatic case which has seen a serving officer charged with murder and kidnap.
On Friday, police identified remains found in a wood in Kent as those of the marketing manager, 33, who vanished as she was walking home from a friend’s house.
The force have also faced a furious backlash after they warned women in the area where Sarah went missing last week to stay at home.
Former PC and author of On the Line ALICE VINTEN spent 11 years in the Metropolitan Police and says this case speaks volumes about the Met’s attitude towards women.
Here, she shares why the force needs to make women’s safety a priority – and quickly.
A bad look
Alice says: "When I saw images of police officers holding down a young woman at Sarah Everard’s vigil on Saturday, I felt conflicted.
Undeniably, this is not a good look for the Met police.
Women are afraid and understandably wanting an outlet for their grief and frustration.
This event was always going to go ahead – the Met should have worked with the organisers and not shut them down.
Those in command can make the decision to let an event go ahead in a hands-off way.
They do it every year with the Notting Hill Carnival- officers are told to only get involved if something is kicking off.
But the decision to drag women away from Sarah’s memorial will have come from senior officers and been approved in advance.
This was a puzzling decision for the force to take as one of their own is charged with murder.
But the officers on the ground will have been just doing their job – we shouldn’t blame them for this.
I imagine plenty of the PCs at the vigil will have felt deeply uncomfortable with what they were asked to do – especially the female bobbies.
While the vast majority of the police are there to keep you safe, I cannot deny there is a problem with sexism in the Met – especially among uniformed police.
As a young PC, I remember once my male colleagues passed around a porn magazine on shift as we drove around in the police van.
I was the only woman there and felt so embarrassed and really uncomfortable.
But I didn’t speak up about it. That’s something I look back on and regret.
I didn’t want to be the person who caused a scene or cause a rift between me and my colleagues.
And that’s not a one-off incident – I saw these things on a regular basis.
And of course in any male-dominated job there is going to be issues with boorish behaviour.
Whenever a woman joined the team, male officers would scramble over each other to find out if she was fit or not.
They might be out on patrol and make sexual comments about a woman who walked by.
Sometimes I could see there were male officers who felt uncomfortable with the alpha male bravado.
But like me they were fearful of speaking up and would go along with laddish behaviour for an easy life.
This type of behaviour shouldn’t happen but it’s a big step to report and could potentially cost someone their job.
Things haven't changed
Since I left the Met six years ago, I doubt that things have changed a whole lot.
Last week I took to my private Facebook page to share my upset and anger at the victim-blaming directed at poor Sarah Everard.
Women should feel safe enough to walk down the street without intimidation or fear of being abducted.
Of course, in the comments there were two men who defensively protested that “not all men” are dangerous.
And who were these men? They were police officers I used to work with.
I now work with domestic abuse victims and survivors.
In my line of work, I have heard from many victims who say their abusers are military and – horrifyingly for me – police officers.
In particular when police abuse their partners, we see a lot of gaslighting and psychological abuse too.
PCs are trusted witnesses and they use this to control their wives and girlfriends.
Like other abusers, they tell them no-one will believe them.
Many partners of police fear going to the cops as the other person on the phone will be someone who knows their husband or boyfriend.
And so, this means we don’t have a clear idea of the numbers of women being abused by the police.
Last year, nurse Claire Parry was strangled by her married lover PC Timothy Brehmer.
She had just texted his wife to tell her of their 11-year relationship.
He was handed a 10-year sentence for manslaughter – not murder – which the Attorney General has called “unduly lenient”.
Over the years, there have been many other women killed and badly hurt by police officers they are in a relationship with.
The problem when police officers kill is that they know how to get away with it.
They know where to hide a body, they know about forensics, they know what they will be asked and what to say to dodge suspicion.
Time to change
Men in the force truly have the upper hand over women in so many ways – from day to day sexist comments to the worst possible crimes.
What urgently needs to happen is police forces across the country need to be training their male employees on how to behave.
We need a professional environment where men are aware that their actions intimidate women – and root out the bad eggs within the force.
The impetus shouldn’t be on women to change their behavior and live in fear.
What struck me in the last few days is that there was outcry when police told women not to go out at night in 1977 when the Yorkshire ripper was on the prowl.
How come 44 years later, us women are in the same situation now?
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