The Metropolitan Police shared the full personal details of a woman who complained about a male officer’s aggression when arresting a vulnerable female with that officer – including her home address.
The 36-year-old, from Lewisham, south London, witnessed the caution and arrest of a woman and her partner following a suspected incidence of domestic violence in June.
She lodged a complaint through the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after witnessing a male police officer repeated shout “f*** off” at the woman he was handling, and push her on the chest causing her to fall into the road.
“The behaviour of the police officer struck me as utterly wrong,” the woman, who did not want to be identified, told The Independent. “Regardless of whether he felt under threat, it was unacceptable to swear and use force against a vulnerable woman who may have already been assaulted by her partner.”
She told the IOPC that if the woman complained about her treatment at the hands of the officer, she would be happy to back up her version of events.
The IOPC passed her complaint to the Metropolitan Police to handle. The woman received a letter later in June confirming that her concerns would be looked into, and confirming that the force had “also sent a copy of our record to the police officer(s), who is/are the subject of your complaint”. That record included the complainant’s full contact details.
“I felt vulnerable and exposed knowing that he knew that I had complained and where I lived, and that I probably wouldn’t have complained in the first place if I’d known this would happen,” she said.
The complaint was eventually passed on to the Lewisham local police branch to investigate. The woman called to express her concern about the sharing of her personal data, but the professional standards officer at that office told her that standard procedures had been followed.
She eventually spoke with the officer’s line manager but said she was met with little understanding over her fears, and was reassured the officer in question was “a very reasonable guy”.
“This was about 10 days after Wayne Couzens had admitted the kidnap of Sarah Everard six miles away, so it seemed particularly weird that none of the officers I’d talked to seemed to understand why as a woman I’d be particularly worried about a potentially violent police officer having my address,” she said.
The Met Police admitted the personal details were shared with the male officer whose conduct she criticised, but said it believed the case to be “an isolated incident”. It added that personal information should be stripped from any document before it reaches the subject of a complaint.
Nevertheless, it has now overhauled its complaints form to prevent the same error happening again, and issued a reminder to forces on how to handle such personal information.
Jamie Klingler, a spokesperson for the Reclaim These Streets campaign, said the incident was “another example of the Met’s inward-looking approach to policing the capital. They continue to protect their own to the detriment of women and girls across London.”
A Met spokesperson said: “The complaint was referred to South East BCU’s Professional Standards Unit to investigate. During this process, the complainant’s contact details were passed to the officer who was the subject of the complaint.
“This was done in error – the form used has since been adapted to remove the details, and staff have been reminded of the importance of checking documents before despatch.”
The investigation into the original complaint concluded last month that the service provided by the officers involved in the arrest was acceptable.