Following the murder of Sarah Everard serious questions have been raised about the misogyny that seems to infect the police system. Sarah Everard was raped and killed after Wayne Couzens, a Met-Office Policeman, falsely accused her of and arrested her for breaking Covid guidelines.
North Yorkshire’s Commissioner for Crime, Fire and Police: Phillip Allott, has been under scrutiny recently after an interview where he commented "women, first of all, need to be streetwise about when they can be arrested and when they can't be arrested” and suggested “perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process.” These abhorrent comments insinuate that women are to blame for being attacked as they don’t know enough about the law. It also implies that had women like Sarah Everard been more ‘streetwise’ that she would have been less at risk. This is a damaging idea that shifts the responsibility for public safety onto women themselves instead of calling out people like Wayne Couzens for their behaviour.
His comments are remarkably similar to ones being made during the time of the Yorkshire Ripper case when women were told to stay at home and not to not go out when it was dark. It seems the misogyny in the police force has also not improved even though these cases are 46 years apart. Wayne Couzens was nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ by his colleagues at work due the way he made women feel uncomfortable. This goes to show why it is so important that we call out sexism, no matter how big or small the issue may seem. It is also the police’s duty to follow up reported incidents as a total of 12 gross misconduct or misconduct notices have been served on police officers from several forces relating to the Couzens case and just days before the murder he was reported twice for indecent exposure. It is not women’s job to be ‘streetwise’ but rather, it is the police’s job to deal with cases of sexual allegations more seriously to keep the streets safer.
Phillip Allott has apologised for his comments, however, an apology is not good enough. He is in a position of power and is only endorsing and making sexism within the police force more acceptable and normalised. Following the death of Sarah Everard, it should have been a priority to do more to protect women from male violence. Yet, Allott’s comments clearly display that this is not an issue of concern for the police. How can the force tackle their problem of sexism that is deeply rooted in the police force when the those at the top of the system are in fact part of the problem?