Police force told rape victims to report crimes online and branded them ‘non emergencies’
A police force has faced a backlash over a poster saying that rape and sexual assault were “non-emergency” crimes that could be reported online.
Kent Police stuck the A4 print-out on the window of the front door of a station in Maidstone, which placed the crimes alongside offences such as antisocial behaviour.
The poster said the force’s website could also be used to send “compliments” and make “general inquiries”.
A picture of the poster was shared online and led to accusations that Kent Police was downplaying the seriousness of rape and sexual assaults, with the force later claiming it had since been removed.
A Twitter user who posted the picture of the sign said: “How can you downplay such a horrific and violent crime? I get it’s hard to prove but going about it like this ain’t the way.”
Kent Police claimed the sign had been placed in the window by a member of staff at the front counter, but it had since been replaced.
The force did not specify how long the sign had been on display in the window.
Aim is to free up contact handlers
A spokesman for Kent Police said the force had been "running a campaign called Click B4 U Call, aimed at encouraging people, where appropriate, to use the online reporting system rather than the 101 telephone number to free up contact handlers.
“The poster in question was put up by a member of police staff at the front counter in Maidstone police station but has since been removed and replaced by a poster clarifying our advice about how best to report crimes to us.”
'We take the investigation of rape very seriously'
Det Ch Supt Emma Banks, the force’s head of protecting vulnerable people, said: “We urge anyone to call us on 999 if there is a crime in progress or if someone is in immediate danger.
"Doing so can make the difference between arresting a suspect at the scene and in some cases saving a life.
“We also support victims in reporting offences in a number of other ways, often for crimes which are not in progress and which may have happened in the past. This can be done online, or through means including text messaging services.
“Kent Police takes the investigation of domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault extremely seriously and we support victims to come forward and speak to us.
“All reports of rape or sexual assault, made through whatever channel are reviewed by a detective sergeant, and are ultimately overseen by a senior officer as part of a thorough review process aimed at ensuring justice and support for all victims.”