Content warning: Sexual violence against women and children. Violence. Police violence.
In the first part of this series, I showed you parts of the misogyny running through British policing. It’s much easier for cops to get away with domestic abuse, and the wives and girlfriends of cops that report it are frequently let down. Women who work for The Police are scared to report sexual harassment in their workplaces. The Police keep being told this is happening, and yet refuse to do anything about it. Blah blah Police Force takes these matters very seriously and blah blah public can rest assured blah blah. Every. Goddamn. Time.
In part two, we’ll cover how being a police officer is one of the very best jobs to have if you want access to vulnerable women and children.
Corruption Isn’t Just About Money
Most of us are taught from a young age to do what a police officer tells us to do. They are there to protect us. Their authority shouldn’t be questioned. Many people will never believe anything else – and if amazingly somehow, but it’s very rare I promise, a bad apple does pop up, BBC documentary series ‘Line of Duty’ will make sure everything is tickety-boo once again.
Police power is necessary. Without it there’d be anarchy. All hail Johnson. All hail Patel. All hail Dick.
In some ways the data the police have access to via the Police National Computer and other systems, is their most unnerving tool. It’s made up of a bunch of databases filled with all the data they’ve gotten their trotters on. If someone or something has been involved in a crime and the police know about it, they have data on it. The existence of this probably isn’t a surprise to anyone. Police write things down. But what can they do with this data?
Some cops use it like Tinder.
Until this research began, my understanding of police corruption was pretty much limited to the movie ‘Serpico’. But no, it’s not just bribes and entrenched racism! On paper, a lot of police forces apparently still think the same as I used to. But misusing police data, and abusing police powers for a sexual purpose are most definitely corruption.
The absurdly named PEEL Spotlight Report Shining a Light on Betrayal: Abuse of Position for A Sexual Purpose from September 2019 by… deep breath… Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) makes plain its displeasure at police forces’ failure to recognise these things as corruption and suitably deal with them.
Clearly, the report focuses on one particular type of corruption, but the points raised must broadly apply to policing as a whole. Here’s a list of some of the teeeeny tiiiny massive problems the report identifies:
- Counter Corruption Units (CCUs) are underfunded and understaffed (off to a good start).
- CCUs only deal with reports of corruption, they don’t proactively seek it out.
- CCUs haven’t formed links with outside agencies that support vulnerable people. These agencies could help recognise abuse and alert CCUs to abusive officers.
- Police forces don’t recognise that abuse of power for a sexual purpose is corruption.
- Police forces can’t monitor access of police systems on computers and handheld devices because they don’t have the software to do so. Or do and don’t know how to use it.
- Police forces don’t record corruption intel correctly, so it’s not recognised as such.
- Police forces don’t report to the public when they discover corruption.
- Recruitment vetting standards set in 2006 are yet to be met.
Quite a list, eh? Anyhoo. That’s what HMICFRS found. What have I found?
I’m focusing on Abuse of Position for A Sexual Purpose and Misusing Police Data for the bulk of the following words. But the other two charges in the above chart are related to this topic too.
Abuse of Position for A Sexual Purpose is a subcategory of Misconduct in Public Office, a corruption charge. There were so many Abuse of Position for A Sexual Purposes that I gave them their own label. However, Misconduct in Public Office covers loads of other things too, and the crimes labelled as Misconduct in Public Office offences I’ve counted are actions where a woman or child has come to harm in some way, but not because a cop has abused his power for sex.
Gross Misconduct is workplace bad behaviour. Not a crime (although officers convicted of a crime usually get one of these too, though I haven’t included them). If an officer is found guilty of Gross Misconduct, they almost always lose their job. Again, I’ve included these where a woman or child has been harmed in some way. It’s all male police violence, all the male time, when it comes to my male charts, baby.
Power and Purpose
Abuse of Position for A Sexual Purpose and Misusing Police Data often go hand in hand. In theory, it’s entirely reasonable to give your phone number to a police officer when you’ve been a victim of crime. I won’t fault someone for doing that. And it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable if the cop puts it in his police issued phone. Right?
I couldn’t find out what the police can and can’t do with the Police National Computer on their phones. But they can definitely access it. Whether they can make entries to it, I’m not sure. If so, that’s where a victim’s details should go, right? On balance, it seems like better procedure to store it on a centralised database than as a new contact in the contact list of a phone. Well, cops sure do seem to end up with the phone numbers of victims without having misused any police data a lot. Hmm.
Each of these one-hundred-and-two stories is awful. None are quite as shocking as the one involving DC Michael McMillan from Part 1: none involves an officer holding the threat of dropping a case over a victim’s head. Few involve officers specially trained to deal with cases of domestic abuse. And only three involve cops falsifying or ignoring evidence in rape cases. So that’s good. Hoooraaaayyyyyyy.
Most of the cases play out something like this whether the victim is a woman or a child: Police officer responds to emergency call. Police officer deals with victim, or witness, or suspect who is vulnerable. Police officer fancies her. Police officer gets her phone number legitimately or otherwise. Police officer starts texting her for an apparently innocent reason a couple of days later.
That happens in most of these cases, mark my words. When you’ve read about as many as I have, it’s hard to pick one case out, because they seem so typical. So ordinary. Which is bad thinking. Bad Lovely Alexander! None of this is ordinary, even if it’s common.
A case study in the HMICFRS report describes a married officer who’d been using his work phone to text thirteen different women he met through his duties. Four of whom believed they were in a relationship with him. That seems like a shit load of effort, like, right? Must have been a power trip. I dunno. Still, I didn’t even find that story in the news while I was doing my research.
So, whether it’s a power thing or an attraction thing, it doesn’t really matter. It’s shitty either way. They start texting. At this point the stories go pretty much all the ways they can go. Except here they get the apparent backing of the state. Have a look.
PC Mark Wilkie liked to send explicit, sexual text messages to victims of crime. PC Mark Wilkie liked to anonymously call victims of crime and make heavy breathing sounds down the line. PC Mark Wilkie did this to at least twelve women. PC Mark Wilkie was caught with a stolen phone containing the phone numbers of over fifty women.
PC Ben Murphy liked to stop female motorists for made up offences and let them off with a warning. PC Ben Murphy would then start texting them messages of a sexual nature. PC Ben Murphy did this to at least five women. PC Ben Murphy sent at least one woman a picture of his penis.
PC Lee Kershaw stole the phone numbers of vulnerable women. PC Lee Kershaw didn’t like it when those vulnerable women rejected his advances. So, PC Lee Kershaw sexually assaulted at least four of them. PC Lee Kershaw also tried to rape a victim of domestic abuse.
Those are just three men who did this. Three men. Three policemen. Out of tens. Hundreds? Thousands? We’ll never know. They were able to do those things with authority and phone numbers. Just phone numbers. A 0, a 7, and nine random numbers.
Voyeurs and The Indecent
In the past few years, The Police have acquired technology that can quickly download the contents of a smartphone, cracking encryption in minutes and giving them access to everything. Contacts. Locations. Messages. Pictures. They’re known as “digital strip searches”. Let’s not mince words. This tech gives the police access to your nudes, and anything else you consider personal, private, or intimate on your phone. I’ve seen no cases involving police officers obtaining pictures like this. But I know they’re coming.
Well, two things.
Firstly, in an audit, 50% of digital strip searches by one force were done without the required warrant. Data is everywhere and The Police want it. Maybe in some cases they’ll even need it. They’ll do whatever they can to get it.
And secondly, well, have a look the numbers for y’self.
While a term like ‘indecent images’ sounds prudish, it doesn’t refer to porn. Porn is created willingly by the participants for the purpose of entertaining others. Oh, and that’s why we don’t call it ‘child porn’. ‘Child sexual abuse images’ if you please. That’s evidence of a crime taking place.
I’m not going to go into significant detail on child sexual abuse images, despite it being the most common charge by far. Fifty-nine cops were charged with related offences, many with multiple. For the most part, that’s because viewing, saving, and sharing all earn separate charges. It’s not a reflection of how many of the images they possessed. From what I figure the images were mostly of girls. It’s still male violence against women, well, girls. Clearly a lot of cops thought it was fine to watch and enjoy children getting raped. And that’s very fucking bad.
A few officers were part of units dedicated to combating child sexual abuse, but only one is definitively linked by the media to have used his police-taught dark web skills to try and get away with possession of the images. Lee Vincent Kelly. But for the most part, they’re caught the “normal” ways. It’s found after they’re caught for another crime, usually attacking a child. Or, by mistakenly leaking some sort of identifying information online, and then having their house raided. Like dumbshit of the fucking decade, PC Robert Branney who had his home address in his username on a child sexual abuse website.
One thing I picked up on is the common excuses used by men caught with child sexual abuse images. First is that they downloaded it by accident. Hmm. Nice save, guy! And number two is that they were very stressed… so… that made them… want to watch child sexual abuse? Two cops, PC Darren Wright and PC Adam Leighton-Price even blamed their leukaemia. The stress of having leukaemia made them want to watch children being raped. That is perhaps the darkest leap of logic I’ve ever seen.
But I digress. Returning to why I’m scared victims nudes will start being stolen. It’s because of cops like Detective Sergeant Benjamin McNish, who filmed a female colleague while she showered.
Or Sergeant Tim Lundy, who posted a woman’s “private sexual pictures” online with the explicit intention of causing her distress. That’s police-speak for “tried to ruin her fucking life.”
Both of those, and many more cases suggest the potential for blackmailing a woman or child with pictures or data from their phone. It’s only a matter of time.
Then there’s PC Dominic Dunne, who liked to secretly film women while having sex with them. PC Dominic Dunne liked to film women while they were unconscious. PC Dominic Dunne liked to film himself sexually assaulting women while they were unconscious.
Still, it was PC Dominic Dunne’s hubris that was his undoing. That he filmed his attacks made it easier for his victims to get justice. Everyone could see what he’d done.
When Your Sexual Assault Isn’t on Camera
I wonder a lot about the women who make an accusation of Sexual Assault, get to trial, and then the man, the cop, is found Not Guilty. I don’t know how I’d handle that. I can imagine sitting in a court room yelling; “But it fucking happened! He did it! What the fuck?! Why don’t you believe me?!”
And then I think of the officers who had multiple accusers and still walked free. What must that result have done to the minds of their alleged victims?
We’ve all been on an overcrowded train. Standing in a vestibule. It’s kinda gross. Hot. Moist. Awkward. I’m a large man, upward and outward. When I’m onboard, I try my best to respect the limited personal space of strangers. But I know I’m likely to bump into someone. Whatcha gonna do? It’s okay. It happens. I’d bet that’s the attitude of most people.
Over a six-month period, Ex-Chief Inspector Gary Davies was accused by three separate whole entire women of rubbing his crotch on them while on overcrowded trains.
He said he had a bad back (from a policing injury no less, how heroic) and needed to adjust his body’s weight distribution to relieve his back pain. As he shifted forward, his crotch came into contact with a woman.
Alright. Fair enough. I figure I’d overlook one quick accidental crotch bump on me. Again, bumping around into others a bit is standard on busy trains. So how long would it take for it to get weird? How long until I’d report it?
But if I were him, there’s no way I’d purposefully perform any kind of action where my crotch is pushed up against a stranger on a train. Man, woman, or child. He was a fucking cop boss. Fucksake he’s a goddamn human being alive in the twenty-first century. He definitely knew it was at leeeast inappropriate. There’s no way he didn’t.
While he wasn’t a cop at the time of the alleged offences, he said he was able to use his knowledge of policing to prove his innocence. Y’see at one point while investigating him, British Transport Police surveilled him illegally. Which he picked up on, because of his police knowledge. So, um that seems to be why he was Not Guilty.
This gets an “iffy” rating from me, what with the three different women reporting him. For the same thing! But nope. Not Guilty. Hmmm.
“My language might be seen as inappropriate and silly but it was to show police officers were not robotic and are approachable.”
Sergeant Richard Evans is a custody sergeant. He’s in charge of the people in the police cells. The above quote is something he said at his trial. His defence seemed to be that he’s a bit cooky. Not a sex-pest. A bit of a silly-billy. Harmless.
He was accused of three different crimes against three women. He had sex with one while she was in custody. He kissed and fondled another while she was in custody. The third had a blanket round her while getting changed and he pulled it down so he could see her breasts.
Not Guilty on all counts. Can’t tell you why. Bit fucking iffy.
Give Us A Snog
In 2011 PC Gareth Roscoe arrested a man for drink driving. The man’s nineteen-year-old girlfriend was with him. She came to the police station. PC Gareth Roscoe was accused by the nineteen-year-old woman of offering to go easy on her boyfriend if she engaged in sexual behaviour with him. PC Gareth Roscoe was accused by the nineteen-year-old woman of groping her breasts, and trying to kiss her.
He was charged and the case went to trial. PC Gareth Roscoe was found Not Guilty.
In 2016 while attending a call, PC Gareth Roscoe asked for a hot drink from a member of the public. A woman. She agreed and invited PC Gareth Roscoe into her home. PC Gareth Roscoe tried to kiss her.
He was found to have engaged in Gross Misconduct and dismissed from the police. Casts a little doubt on the result of his first trial, huh?
I wonder how often cops try to snog the public. PC Gareth Roscoe is not the only cop charged with doing this.
More Miserable Numbers
I’ve been on either end of a rejected kiss. It’s uncomfortable for everyone. But it’s only ever been with peers. There will have been the socialised male/female power dynamics, sure, but I’ve never tried to kiss a stranger at work. It’s never involved one of us having legal authority over another.
Of course, many men feel entitled to women’s bodies despite rejection; the addition of a uniform must only amplify that. Recently I learned men – strangers – will grab women either side of their waists to move them out of the way. If as a society that’s where we’re still at, fuck, man. Women aren’t chairs.
The overall state of successful prosecutions of Sexual Assault by police officers is relatively high at nearly 90% (not counting Unclear or Awaiting Trial).
Many cops are charged with multiple offences, and this is reflected in the total statistics. One officer was charged with five counts of Sexual Assault and was found Not Guilty for all of them. Another was charged with five counts of Sexual Assault, and was found Guilty of all of them.
However, once we remove the two-hundred-and-twenty Sexual Assaults against children from the picture the prosecution rate for cops that attack women drops to 63%, and it’s not clear at all why that is.
Infuriatingly, as with everything I’ve discussed, we only have a few small random parts of the story.
Sexual Assault is woefully underreported for both adults and children. For the year ending March 2020, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 618,000 women were sexually assaulted. 162,936 of these were reported to the police.
For children, there’s currently no way of knowing what the actual scale of the problem is. The ONS’ best estimate is 7.5% of adults aged between 18 and 74 were victims of sexual abuse as children. That’s 3.1 million people. Jesus Christ. For every boy abused, three girls were. If we extrapolate those numbers to the number of people under sixteen currently living in the UK, 12.7 million, we get 952,500. But I don’t know how to work that into an annual figure.
Frequently The Police don’t record data on sex crimes properly, so even the total number recorded against children is a guess by the ONS. 73,260 for the year ending March 2019. We don’t really know how many children are sexually abused every year. Yep.
Then there’s the March 2021 UN finding that 71% of women in the UK have faced some form of sexual harassment from men in public. The number rises to 86% for women aged 18-24.
55% of those women thought their experience wasn’t serious enough to report. 45% thought reporting it wouldn’t help. Again, it’s hard to pull any useful data from these figures, apart from the general lack of faith in society and The Police. The UN definition is as broad as can be. Though that’s not a criticism! Because it’s all unacceptable. It was all serious enough to report to someone. It was all serious enough to be worthy of help. It all fucking matters.
“[The UN] defines sexual harassment as the continuum of violent practices against women and girls. It can take the form of various acts including rape, other aggressive touching, forced viewing of pornography, taking and circulating sexual photographs, as well as verbal sexual conduct. In effect, sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct.”
While it’s not obviously comparable with any of the data I’ve amassed, The Independent submitted a Freedom of Information request to The Metropolitan Police querying how many officers had been accused of “sex attacks” between 2012 and 2018. They found 562 officers were accused of Sexual Assault and only forty-three faced subsequent proceedings. We don’t know how many ended up in court.
Finally, there are the most recent Independent Office for Police Complaints figures. The IOPC claims to publish quarterly reports about complaints for each police force. Except at time of writing – March 2021, the most recent quarterly reports were for Q3 2019. And the most recent annual report was for 2018/19. I can’t see a publication date for the report. It’s all probably completely fine that the IOPC aren’t publishing figures anymore for no obvious reason. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Well, whatever, I guess. Let’s have a looksee at their latest data.
The total number of complaints (not just of a sexual nature) fell for more than half the forces in England and Wales. Only four had an increased number of complaints. Are they getting less shitty? Or just recording fewer complaints? There were 5% fewer in total than the previous year, down to 58,478. But um, well, for that same year there were 123,171 total cops in England and Wales. That’s potentially almost one in two officers being complained about. Right? Probably nothing to worry about.
You know what? Fuck this. I’ve read through the IOPC report I’m referring to twice. It’s self-congratulatory bullshit. It can fuck off. The IOPC provide no real data of any use. The categorisations of complaints are vague. They just sing the praises of their own ability to count things. The vast majority of all complaints are not upheld. And guess who decides whether a complaint should be passed to the IOPC?
The police force being complained about. Because of course it is. What’s even the point of the IOPC?
We already know that the culture in policing is predominantly macho, they look after their own, and Counter Corruption Units only investigate something when they actually have to. They don’t bother looking for things proactively.
Speaking of which.
“If you can’t trust a police officer, then who can you trust?”
This is a question we saw asked a lot in March of 2021 after a cop was accused of kidnapping and murdering a woman. It’s the same question that’s asked in practically all of the cases I’ve described above and below, and the many, many more I haven’t.
Who gets to decide who gets to be a cop? The police, of course.
The vetting standards are… I dunno. Predictable? But the chances are, most people would pass a police vetting. None of the things they vet for are special. Seeing if someone has massive debts and therefore potentially open to bribery, checking whether their mum’s an underworld boss, that kinda thing.
I don’t think they need to be lowered, that’s for sure. I’m not sure how you’d vet for someone’s potential to carry out a sexual assault. The only mention of “sex” in relation to a crime in the vetting standards document is that an applicant to the police isn’t on the sex offenders register. Hooray for the bare minimum… But there’s gotta be more they can do. Someone somewhere knows. And has likely been ignored.
What’s unacceptable, but not that surprising is what HMICFRS found in their previously discussed report on abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
“All 43 forces agreed national vetting standards in 2006. It is not acceptable that there are still people working in forces without the correct vetting for their role. We are deeply concerned about the confusion in some forces as to the vetting levels required for some roles, and how many people still need their vetting status updated.”
In their reports for more than five years now the inspectorate has been specifically instructing, not just recommending, forces to complete vetting for all staff. And still, they haven’t. In the latest report 52% of one force were without the correct vetting.
Oh! One more thing! There’s no national requirement for staff to be vetted when they transfer between forces. So after being accused of the Sexual Assault of a child, PC Ian Naude was able to transfer to a different force. Kidnap a teenage girl. Rape her. And film it.
I wrote this section as an abolitionist. I don’t want The Police reformed. I want them gone. But I recognise that’s not going to happen any time soon. So, the absolute bare minimum that needs doing is finding a better way to keep men who are happy to carry out sexual violence out of policing. As long as these vulnerabilities exist, they’ll keep on being recruited. And it’s gotta be more than the “Have you ever been a member of the BNP?” box they have to try and keep out nazis. Currently anti-fascists are better at vetting cops than the cops. Though that’s not particularly surprising.
You’re All Fired
And now you know how The Police care very little for rooting out their corrupt officers. That it’s incredibly easy for cops to misuse the data they collect, and soon they’ll have access to even more. It should be even clearer that The Police have no interest in treating institutional misogyny with the seriousness it deserves. And the only thing in place to stop men who attack women and children from gaining state sanctioned power is that they haven’t been caught before.
Well, what happens when all of that combines and cops commit the very worst kind of sexual assault? That’s next time.
NB: This piece was also published by Organise!