We will listen and act
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Sussex’s Chief Constable has said she is “intently listening and ready to act” on the experiences of women and girls across Sussex in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.
Jo Shiner acknowledged the crime has shocked the nation and left some people doubting the police, particularly women.
Sussex Police, working with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, will develop a programme of engagement with local communities about the issues raised, to help rebuild trust and boost work already underway.
This will also consider all the correspondence received by the force on the issue.
The results will be used to re-evaluate the current policing approach and shared with partners to review wider activity to tackle male violence and enhance women’s safety across Sussex.
Chief Constable Shiner said: “The crime was horrific and it has eroded the confidence some people have in the police to protect them. As a woman and as a police officer, this hurts, and I know it hurts my colleagues who work hard every day to protect people and catch criminals.
“We are going to have to work really hard and really openly with our communities to rebuild that trust.
“That’s why I want to have a measured conversation with local communities and with colleagues because, if we are not careful, there is a danger we will not bring about the meaningful change we all want, change that will prevent violence against women and girls and the toxic attitudes that lead to it.
“There is an awful lot we are doing within Sussex Police and we must continue to build on this.”
Former Metropolitan police officer, Wayne Couzens, from Kent, was sentenced to life last month for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard from a street in South London in March. The court heard he had used his police ID to make a false arrest to carry out the crime which he had planned.
The case has prompted widespread discussion on the issue of violence against women and girls and, last week, the Government announced an independent inquiry into the events leading up to Sarah’s death including examining vetting, professional standards and how predatory or misogynistic behaviour was challenged.
Sussex Police works closely with other agencies, charities and voluntary groups across Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex, to tackle violence against women and girls across Sussex.
Its commitment is evidenced through a series of initiatives, some recognised nationally as best practice, which improve services for women and girls.
These include stalking and domestic abuse perpetrator programmes, the introduction of new enhanced safeguarding processes for victims, a new specialist Local Resolution Team which is trained in and deals specifically with cases of domestic abuse, with the ability to connect with victims via discrete video appointments, and the introduction of Sexual Offence Investigation Teams, specially trained to support victims of rape and serious sexual assault.
Last week Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne announced a further £1million in ‘Safer Streets’ Government funding had been secured to tackle violence against women and girls and to support education, awareness and behaviour change programmes across Sussex.
The Chief Constable said a ‘whole society’ approach is needed. “Everyone has the right to go about their business and feel safe whether that’s in a public space or in their own home. However, I know that’s not always the case, by listening to our communities.
“The police have an important role to play absolutely, but the misogyny and entrenched attitudes that often lead to male violence is a systemic issue and we all need to take responsibility for challenging that behaviour, even at the earliest stage.
“If we all challenge inappropriate behaviour and sexism in all of its forms, and in all environments, and feel confident to do this then we can collectively ensure everyone feels safe.
“Equally, I am committed to support my officers and staff to carry out their work preventing harm, protecting victims, catching criminals, and to do so in an environment where they feel safe to call out behaviour that undermines this and which has no place in Sussex Police.
Identifying police officers
As a result of the case, officers and staff in Sussex understand some people may require additional reassurance.
If this is the case, they can use their police radio on loud speaker, allowing the police control room to confirm the identity of the officer, that they are on duty and carrying out legitimate policing business.
Off-duty officers intervening in a crime in action or where someone is vulnerable, and not carrying a radio, will quickly call 999 for back up.
Street Safe App
Sussex Police is one of a number of police forces currently piloting a new app called Street Safe.
Launched by the Home Office, the Street Safe app allows women to anonymously flag up the areas in public where they feel or have felt unsafe. The information is shared with the relevant agency for action.
“The Street Safe app is a step towards understanding wider issues of safety for women and girls – where it may not be a crime but something is making them feel unsafe or where they feel they have to change their behaviour to do so.
“I would encourage people to use this app to help us, and other local agencies, better understand what we can do in your neighbourhood to make you feel safer,” the Chief Constable added.