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UK Police Reports Shows Problems Of Misconduct, Officer Vetting

An independent investigation commissioned by the British government has revealed serious culture and security lapses in police forces in England and Wales, leading to applicants with questionable backgrounds being cleared to be hired and officers going unpunished for harassing women. The watchdog also identified a “culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour” within the police force, the Washington Post reports. In one case, an officer misused force resources to search for the work location of his ex-girlfriend. She reported him and alleged that he had previously stalked her. The professional standards department didn’t investigate her claim, and the officer in charge only issued an informal warning. The cases were among hundreds of vetting files and complaint and misconduct investigations reviewed by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), a government watchdog. The report looked at eight police forces across England and Wales. Investigators found applicants with criminal records or with family ties to organized crime cleared to join police forces with insufficient scrutiny, and allegations of misconduct not being properly assessed. The watchdog cited lax standards in police vetting and the mishandling of complaint allegations, adding, “it is too easy for the wrong people to both join and stay in the police.”

While many of those interviewed and surveyed said the culture of policing had improved in recent years, some officers and staff made allegations against colleagues ranging from misconduct to sexual assault. The report found that prospective officers with past convictions for offenses such as indecent exposure and domestic abuse were cleared to join police forces, and that officers with “a history of attracting complaints or allegations of misconduct” were allowed to transfer between forces. The report’s findings are “mind-blowing,” said Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation. Its release comes as the U.K. and other countries engage in national conversations around police misconduct and the future of policing. The Home Office, which oversees policing in England and Wales, ordered the watchdog inquiry in October 2021, seven months after a woman named Sarah Everard was abducted in London by a police officer who then raped and murdered her. It later emerged that the officer, Wayne Couzens, had been the subject of past complaints for indecent exposure, and the Independent Office for Police Conduct watchdog launched investigations to determine whether the forces he worked for failed to investigate.


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