Police Need To Change As They're 'Impossible To Trust' Now, Reclaim These Streets Say

The movement is known for organising (then cancelling) a vigil for Sarah Everard two years ago.
Reclaim These Streets have called for more action over police vetting
Reclaim These Streets have called for more action over police vetting
Getty/BBC Radio 4

It’s “impossible to trust” the police unless they actually implement change, the co-founder of Reclaim These Streets has claimed.

The strong remarks followed a shocking report from the police watchdog suggesting criminals and sexual predators were allowed into the force due to a “questionable” vetting process.

Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said, “it’s far too easy for the wrong people” to become officers.

The report, commissioned after the murder of Sarah Everard by a then-serving officer, emphasised misogyny and sexual misconduct were still rife within police ranks.

Anna Birley is the co-founder of the Reclaim These Streets movement, which organised a south London vigil for Everard back in 2020. It was cancelled after police said such a gathering would breach Covid rules, but an unofficial event went ahead anyway – leading to clashes between police and attendees.

On Wednesday, Birley said senior police figures have promised to change or take action repeatedly in recent years, but little has happened.

“This isn’t a new problem, it’s just that we’re talking about it more,” she told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

“I want to see massive changes in the way we vet and recruit police officers, we need to be changing the type of person we recruit to be police.

“It’s a unique position of power over people, over women, and we need to be confident that when we pick up the phone in an emergency and ask for help, the person that’s going to come isn’t a predator themselves.”

Reclaim These Streets claims it offered advice on how the force can improve its vetting, support its whistleblowers, and change the system for reporting and suspending officers over misconduct.

“Those suggestions were made two years ago now – we weren’t the first to make them and we won’t be the last, we need to see action, otherwise it’s impossible to trust [the police],” Birley said.

Host Martha Kearney asked if more funding was the key, but Birley claimed that all public services need more investment – ultimately, a culture change was needed within the police force.

“That requires strong leadership, that requires a change in vetting and recruitment processes, it requires a change in the type of person who is attracted to be a police officer. Someone who wants to serve under duty, not someone who is attracted to the power and position it gives them.”

The report was commissioned by then home secretary Priti Patel last year, from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services.

The watchdog questioned 11,000 officers and staff, and “almost without exception” women said they had been “on the receiving end of behaviour which absolutely has no place in the modern workplace,” according to Parr.

Speaking to BBC 5 Live Breakfast, he said: “If the police are to rebuilt public trust and protect their own female officers and staff, vetting must be much more rigorous – and sexual misconduct taken more seriously.”

Officers are meant to be vetted when they apply to join or move to another force, and then every 10 years after that. For more sensitive roles, the vetting is supposed to happen every seven years.

Instead, the report found some officers passed vetting, despite criminal records, were suspected of serious offences, have debts or family connected to organised crime.


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