Police Scotland introduces 'simple' verification check for officers working on their own

·3-min read

Lone police officers will offer a verification check to members of the public to provide reassurance, Police Scotland has said.

The force has introduced the process following the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by Wayne Couzens - a service police officer.

Couzens, who was given a life sentence on 30 September, is thought to have falsely arrested Ms Everard for breaking COVID rules as she walked home in Clapham.

Police Scotland said the "simple verification process" will provide reassurance about whether or not a lone police officer is genuine.

"On duty officers operating on their own will now proactively offer to carry out a verification check for anyone they come across who appears to be concerned for their safety," the force said.

"Although police officers normally work in pairs in Scotland and it is very rare for a lone police officer to approach a member of the public, there are occasions when this could happen.

"The new process will allow for the officer's personal radio to be put on loudspeaker and for an officer or member of police staff in a Police Scotland Control Room to confirm that the officer is who they say they are, that they are on duty and the reason the officer is speaking to the member of the public."

The force added that the control room will create an incident number that can be displayed on the officer's mobile phone or radio to confirm the broadcast message details.

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: "Public confidence and consent is critical to our legitimacy, and our ability to keep our communities and citizens safe.

"The appalling circumstances of Sarah Everard's murder have deeply affected people and many are now understandably concerned about verifying an officer's identity.

"Although it is rare for a lone police officer to have to speak to a member of the public in Scotland, we absolutely recognise our responsibility to introduce an additional means of verification to provide further reassurance to anyone, in particular women who may feel vulnerable, and who might be concerned if they find themselves in this situation.

"The onus is on us, as a police service, to proactively offer this additional verification process to any member of the public who appears distressed, vulnerable or frightened."

Following Couzens' sentencing, the Metropolitan Police offered guidance to people who are concerned about being approached by a lone officer.

It said if a person feels in "real and imminent danger and you do not believe the officer is who they say they are" they should shout out to a passer-by, run into a house, knock on a door, call 999 if possible or wave a bus down - advice which was criticised on social media.

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And North Yorkshire's police commissioner, Philip Allott was criticised for comments he made while discussing the rape and murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Mr Allott told BBC Radio York: "So women, first of all, need to be streetwise about when they can be arrested and when they can't be arrested. She should never have been arrested and submitted to that.

"Perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process."

He later apologised for the comments and said he wishes to "retract them in full".

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