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Advice issued by the Metropolitan Police suggesting women should flag down a bus if they have concerns when stopped by an officer was “taken out of context”, the head of the force has said.
Dame Cressida Dick said she stands by the advice that was issued by the Met last week despite widespread criticism.
Government ministers and Scotland Yard were accused of having a tone-deaf response to violence against women and girls after publishing a list of suggestions over what action the public should take if they fear an officer is not acting legitimately.
Addressing the comments relating to the advice to flag down a bus, the Met Police Commissioner told the PA news agency: “So I think this was rather taken out of context.
“I think we all realise that a lone woman being approached by a man in plain clothes, reporting to be a police officer, might be concerning and my officers, my male officers, understand that absolutely.
“It will be rare for a woman to meet a single, plain clothes officer. I can’t rule it out but it will be a rare occurrence. The officer will be sensitive to the fact that the person may be concerned.”
She added the officer in question will identify themselves, be happy to answer questions but the woman in question could ask the officer to get in touch with the control room and “in extremis she may wish to seek other help” if she is still worried.
“I do want to stress, the vast majority of my police officers are good people,” Dame Cressida told PA.
“They’re doing their very best in sometimes difficult circumstances… they will want to assist the woman to feel safe and comfortable in that encounter.”
Baroness Nuala O’Loan, whose inquiry into Daniel Morgan’s murder concluded that the Met was “institutionally corrupt”, added her voice to the wave of criticism on Monday, stating that the advice to flag down a bus was “ludicrous”.
Speaking to Radio 4’s World At One programme, she said: “If I were on my own and in the kind of situation which Sarah Everard was, I think I would be afraid. I think if my fear wasn’t reassured very quickly then I would be dialling 999.
“This girl had nowhere to run, nowhere to go, no buses to hail, and he took her. So it does leave women in a very, very vulnerable position.”
Questioned over whether she trusted the Met to address the issues raised by the Everard case, the baroness said her inquiry highlighted issues over vetting, anti-corruption and the ethical culture of the force but members “have not seen immediate action”.