LONDON – James Mason was on duty at a police station in north London when a young woman came and reported that she had just been robbed on a city street. Already shaken, the woman became even more agitated by Mr. Mason’s questions: What clothes did she wear to work? Did she have a boyfriend? Would you go to dinner?
When she contacted him and asked him for updates on the case, he continued to pursue her aggressively. And when she told him she was off the line, he replied in an email, “Actually, the victims’ visit is positively encouraged, ”adding,“ It’s all part of the friendly and approachable face of the Met Police. It’s a rejection that’s impatient. “
Mr Mason climbed through the ranks of the London Metropolitan Police Service and eventually became the detective’s chief inspector, while the young woman remained silent about the 2011 episode and said in an interview that she felt empowered to report only last year.
At a disciplinary hearing last month, at which the woman was granted anonymity, it was found that Mr Mason was involved in a serious misconduct due to abuse of official power for sexual purposes. Instead of being fired, it was Mr. Mason received the last written warning this month a verdict that shocked his victim, but reflected what criminal justice experts describe as a systemic mistake in the British police force in trying to control or discipline employees who abuse women.
In August, a former police officer from Northumbria was convicted on charges of indecent assault and misconduct due to exploitative sexual intercourse with two victims of domestic violence. This month, a Nottinghamshire police officer was fired and banned from serving after sending sexually suggestive messages to a woman he stopped while driving. Also this month, the disciplinary commission found that the London police officer’s sexual intercourse with the woman he was investigating for the crime was serious infringement.
Such behavior by police officers has outraged women, rights groups and politicians across the UK, culminating in September following the conviction of Wayne Couzens, a London police officer who abused his position to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard.
Police acknowledged the wrong steps in checking Mr. Couzens, who was sentenced to life in prison, sparking widespread concern that forces across the country had not done enough to identify and stop violators in their ranks.
A young woman pursued by Mr. Mason – who demanded that her name not be hidden because she had previously been attacked online – said she felt police were more concerned about maintaining Mr Mason’s career than her safety. “We shouldn’t protect them,” she said in an interview.
Mr. Mason, who apologized at the disciplinary hearing, retained his position as chief detective inspector. Efforts to reach it through the metropolitan police were unsuccessful.
According to statistics published in Channel 4 investigation. Only 8 percent were fired. In almost 60 percent of cases, no action was taken against the accused. The vast majority of cases, even those in which a violation has been found, never lead to criminal charges, the investigation found.
Zoë Billingham, a former inspector of an independent oversight group reviewing the work of police in the UK, said Mr Couzens’ crime was an extreme case but needed to be seen in a broader context.
“The narrative shouldn’t be,‘ It was an aberration, it was a one-off, it was a bad egg, ’” she said. “It should be, ‘What are we doing in the police to stop this misogynistic tolerance for inappropriate behavior?'”
While those who misbehave represent a small number of police officers in general, Ms Billingham said these cases exist in a culture where police officers act with impunity and get closer when accusations arise.
Police say they have made some progress. The Independent Police Office, an external monitoring group, released new data this week showing that the number of police officers facing disciplinary proceedings for sexual abuse has risen sharply in the past three years.
From 2018 to 2021, 66 police officers and police officers were faced with disciplinary proceedings due to investigations, of which 42 last year alone, and in 63 of these cases, according to new data, a violation was proven.
Officials say the increase is a direct result of efforts to address the issue and those responsible. Many cases of sexual misconduct are categorized as corruption due to abuse of power and automatically trigger a surveillance team investigation. But some police did not treat the cases as corruption, so they did not refer them to the group.
For victims – like a robbed woman – the experience can leave an indelible mark.
The harassment undermined her confidence in the system, she said. When she found herself in a violent relationship years later, she said she did not want to call the police.
But in recent years, after observing the #MeToo movement and after a long personal growth, she said she feels it’s time to report on the episode.
With increased public oversight, local and national police and oversight bodies have taken some steps to address the concerns. Ministry of the Interior, government office responsible for policing, announced an investigation into the issues raised by the murder of Sarah Everard.
The London Police Department, which did not respond to a request for comment, said own independent review of standards and practices, and plans to increase the number of investigators investigating police abuses. It also plans to set up a dedicated team to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse.
The Council of National Police Chiefs has instructed British police chiefs to review all allegations of sexual misconduct, indecent exposure and domestic abuse involving police officers over the past two years.
Some former police officers have been vocal advocates of a zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse and believe police officers should be fired immediately after an investigation confirms their guilt.
Janet Hills, a recently retired detective sergeant who served in the Metropolitan Police for three decades and was also president of the National Black Police Association, said transparency is key.
“They need to point this out and be very obvious and clear,” she said, “without a punch to the wrist.”
She said, in her experience, internal misdemeanor proceedings were violated because they called police to search their peers, discouraging whistleblowers from reporting.
“They’re asking us to mark our homework,” she said.
Those within the forces who tried to point out bad behavior often encountered obstacles. Paige Kimberley, a former longtime official, was turned down by a police advisory service after reporting. vulgar, sexist and offensive messages in the WhatsApp group with male colleagues. She received an employment lawsuit against London police this month.
Ms. Kimberley’s lawyer, Terry Falcão, who is also a former police officer, said the case reflects the broader culture of the “boys’ club.” “They treated it like it was nothing,” he said.
Sue Fish, former Nottinghamshire Police Chief, spoke about own experiences of sexual assault by colleagues, she said she was overwhelmed with messages from current and former police officers trying to whistle. Some have seen investigations turn to them in the midst of defense and island culture.
“British police are brilliant in many things,” Ms Fish said. “But it systematically fails women and girls, systemically fails people within itself, and systemically fails marginalized or minority communities.”
Ms. Fish said consistent leadership is needed to identify and eradicate misogyny at the core of the problem.
“Some of their stories were that Couzens was a bad apple and that the barrel was rotting,” she said. But in reality, she added, there is “a lot of bad in the barrel,” which keeps good officers and can enable predators.
“So it’s actually,” she said, “a key barrel issue.”