Cressida Dick: Met Police was wrong to advise women to flag down a bus if stopped by a lone officer

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick reads a statement to the media at the Old Bailey on September 29, 2021 in London, England. Wayne Couzens, 48, is handed a whole life order for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, meaning he will die in prison. Sarah's body was found in woodland near land owned by Couzens in Ashford, Kent, one week after she went missing from Clapham, London. (Photo by Ming Yeung/Getty Images)
Dame Cressida Dick has admitted it was wrong for the Met Police to advise women to flag down a bus. (Getty Images)

Dame Cressida Dick has admitted it was wrong for the Met Police to advise women to flag down a bus if stopped by a lone officer.

The force was heavily criticised after suggesting in the wake of the Sarah Everard case that women concerned they are not being stopped legitimately should try to flag down a passing bus or run to a nearby house.

Ms Everard was raped and murdered by Wayne Couzens, a serving officer who used his warrant card and police-issue handcuffs to kidnap the 33-year-old as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London in March this year.

Couzens was given a rare full-life sentence at the Old Bailey last month.

Watch: Plain-clothes police to video call uniformed officer when stopping lone women

When asked whether the advice had been reviewed, Dame Cressida told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee: “I completely understand why that ended up as the headline. It was not intended, and it is not how we see things.

“Yes we have reviewed it and I think we would address the question differently were it to come again in the future.”

Women’s rights groups had criticised the Met for suggesting women should try to get the attention of bus drivers if faced with a lone officer they were concerned with.

A Sisters Uncut spokesperson said: “We are shocked and appalled that the Met police have encouraged women to ‘shout or wave down a bus’ if they believe they are being harassed by a male officer.

“This advice, alongside the advice to ‘run away and call 999’, should concern everyone as it shows a deep internal distrust – Cressida Dick does not trust her officers to not abuse their powers.

“If the head of the Met can’t trust the police, why should we?”

Jamie Klinger, from Reclaim These Streets, added: “Yet again this puts the onus on women to keep themselves safe – and what’s worse is that it’s keeping themselves safe from the people supposed to protect them.

“When is the Met going to take measures to ensure that a police officer isn’t a predator rather than giving women yet more advice on how to change their behaviour?”

Labour MP Jess Phillips branded the Met’s advice as “tone deaf”, with her colleague Wes Streeting adding it was “utterly woeful”.

Dame Cressida faced calls to quit following the sentencing of Couzens.

Senior Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote a letter asking for her resignation, with others joining the calls, including Klinger from Reclaim These Streets.

Sarah Everard, 33, was last seen in south London on 3 March. (Police)
Sarah Everard, 33, was raped and murdered by serving police officer Wayne Couzens. (Police)

On Wednesday, the Met Police announced a new policy for lone officers stopping women.

Plain-clothes officers will now video call a uniformed colleague to confirm their identity when stopping a lone woman.

Dame Cressida added: “What I can say today is that we are launching our Safe Connection, as we call it, which allows a woman who is stopped by such a police officer immediately to have verification that this is a police officer.

“Because my plain-clothes officers will call into a control room, they will then have a video call with a sergeant in uniform who will say ‘yes that’s so-and-so, he’s PC XYZ’. So a quick and easy way which is instigated by the officer, not by the woman having to ask for this.”

Dame Cressida stressed the onus should be on the police officer to properly identify themselves, and that the bus advice given was “if all else fails” when someone may want to try to get help.

Wiltshire Police have already announced a similar scheme whereby officers will put their radio on loudspeaker and ask their control room to confirm their identity.

Watch: Priti Patel promises inquiry following Sarah Everard murder

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