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The Metropolitan Police’s advice for women to stay safe if they are approached by a lone police officer has landed flat online.
The Met advised women to “flag down a bus”, challenge the legitimacy of a lone plain-clothed police officer, or call 999 if they are concerned about a particular officer on Thursday.
The tips came the day after Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole-life order for using his powers as a serving police officer to falsely arrest, kidnap, rape and murder her with his police belt.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “What is going on at the top of the Metropolitan Police? Give me strength.”
Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has received some serious backlash and calls for her to resign over Couzens.
Colleagues reportedly used to call him “The Rapist” and there were alleged incidents in the past which suggested he could be a threat to women and girls before he joined the police force.
What is going on at the top of the Metropolitan Police? Give me strength. https://t.co/BXyy7Eyw4S
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) October 1, 2021
Others pointed out the futility of the police advice.
Comic Ken Cheng said: “Famously police officers have no recourse if you get on a bus; their badges, uniforms and weapons carry no authority there.”
Another noted how Couzens was a legitimate, serving police officer when he committed his crimes – and therefore calling the police to check his authority may not have helped the situation.
famously police officers have no recourse if you get on a bus; their badges, uniforms and weapons carry no authority there
— Ken Cheng twitch.tv/kenchengcomedy (@kenchengcomedy) October 1, 2021
But he was a legitimate police officer? If Sarah had called 101 they would have confirmed he is a serving Met Police officer....
Why is it always on us to challenge, how about you challenge your colleagues about their behaviour! https://t.co/Jv6ydzLygf
— Danielle Hayden (@hayden_danielle) October 1, 2021
The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer John Crace tweeted: “After six months, the best the Met can come up with is ‘flag down a bus’.”
After 6 months, the best the Met can come up with is ‘flag down a bus’
— John Crace (@JohnJCrace) October 1, 2021
What I can’t stop thinking about is - the Met knew all of this the whole time? They knew and they had a chance to get ahead of the story before it came out in court. Resignations, inquiry, reforms, media preparation. Instead they came out swinging at a candlelit vigil
— Harriet Marsden (@harriet1marsden) September 30, 2021
Activist Ash Sarkar pointed out how this advice is tailored to change the behaviour of women, not how to prevent another person acting like Wayne Couzens.
We're framing this as 'how to prevent another Sarah Everard', and not 'how to prevent another Wayne Couzens'.
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) October 1, 2021
Author Musa Okwonga mocked the police advice for the general public to run away from an unmarked police car or plain-clothed officers if they “genuinely feel fearful” – and suggested there would be severe consequences if a black person tried to do this.
Others remembered the controversial reaction the police had to the vigil held in Everard’s honour back in March, which saw multiple officers restrain individual women in a bid to control a large gathering during a Covid lockdown.
"What time does the next bus arrive, please?" pic.twitter.com/SZpbtvDTSb
— Richard Littler (@richard_littler) October 1, 2021
OR vet your officers properly so they don’t rape and murder women, and sort your organisation out so that when a police offer is literally known as “the rapist” he doesn’t continue to be employed, jfc pic.twitter.com/SGHoFaWgfO
— Hannah Jane Parkinson (@ladyhaja) October 1, 2021
The tips surrounding “flagging down a bus” if you feel in danger prompted a wave of scathing responses online too, as Twitter users expressed their outrage over the Met’s inadequate reaction to Everard’s death.
bus drivers sometimes don’t stop for me when I’m waiting for a bus at the bus stop https://t.co/S1JvCghjGj
— pumpkin spice hatté (@HattiRex) October 1, 2021
Can the Met explain how they are going to change their hiring and disciplinary process, as well as reform their misogynistic culture, so that nothing like this happens again
Have you tried flagging a bus https://t.co/06u5YelwMY
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) October 1, 2021
You know the system is broken beyond repair when the police tell women to “shout or wave a bus down” if they encounter a male officer they don’t trust.
Anything but meaningful systemic change eh?
— Wendy Richardson (@LittlewoodProj1) October 1, 2021
Their comms around this whole tragedy has been an absolute disgrace. But beyond that there are serious questions the Met needs to answer. There were red flags they ignored with tragic consequences. Their response: flag down a bus if you are scared. WTF?
— Arvind Hickman (@ArvindHickman) October 1, 2021
Women issue advice to men to stop raping and murdering women https://t.co/zKdGUQNMKu
— Nicola Coughlan (@nicolacoughlan) October 1, 2021
The police are telling us to run away from the police and then call the police. We are nowhere near as ‘developed’ as this country likes to believe https://t.co/z2qP0wuo0x
— jack rem x (@jackremmington) October 1, 2021
Met Police are a joke.
It shouldn’t be “Here’s what YOU can do if you don’t trust a male officer”.
It should be “Here’s what WE’RE doing to make sure you CAN trust our male officers.” https://t.co/tSSq8w5PCL
— Ace Trainer Liam (@AceTrainerLiam) October 1, 2021
'Most officers are not going to wait for you to call 999, they're more likely to throw you to the ground and cuff you.'
Kit Malthouse's advice to women who are approached by lone police officers 'doesn't tally', this protection officer tells James O'Brien.@mrjamesobpic.twitter.com/jlOwTcc6U0
— LBC (@LBC) October 1, 2021
Help and support:
Rape Crisis services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999
Survivors UK offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.