There is “widespread sexism” within the Metropolitan Police, according to a former senior Scotland Yard officer.
Liberal Democrat Lord Paddick, who was a deputy assistant commissioner in the force, said police officers in the Met are “concerned that things may be going backwards rather than forwards”.
He said women are safe with the “overwhelming majority” of police officers, adding that there is a need for police leaders who recognise problems with prejudice in the police service and are prepared to address them.
Lord Paddick said there needs to be a “cultural change”, particularly in the Met, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “There’s been a series of allegations recently in the Metropolitan Police about inappropriate behaviour by Metropolitan Police officers, and for me that’s a sign of a wider cultural problem.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to call it institutional misogyny, but I would describe it as widespread sexism within the force, and we need police leaders to acknowledge prejudice within the police service, and who are prepared to do something about it.”
He said a third of police constables nationally are now women, which he said means wherever possible male officers should patrol with a female officer to provide visible reassurance.
Lord Paddick added: “We need to get to a situation where women victims tell other women that they were treated well by the police, so that it changes the perception amongst women.
“It is the perception that needs to be addressed, not necessarily the reality.”
Lord Paddick said: “When I was in the police I was told it was okay to be a woman, or to be gay, or to be black, provided you behaved like a straight white man.
“We need more women leaders, but more importantly we need police leaders who recognise the problems with prejudice in the police service, whether it’s sexism or racism or other forms of prejudice, who are prepared to acknowledge that these problems exist, who are prepared to do something about them.
“At the moment, all we get is denial.”
He added: “Even now I talk to serving police officers, and they tell me, particularly in the Metropolitan Police, they are concerned that things may be going backwards rather than forwards.”
Helen King, former assistant chief constable at Merseyside Police, said it is important to ensure “good, morally and physically courageous people with high levels of integrity” want to join the police and see it as an attractive career.
She said “hundreds and thousands” of women have benefited from the “professional and sensitive support” of police officers in cases of domestic abuse and sexual offences.
She told the Today programme: “I think we need to recognise that there isn’t a magic simple answer to this. We all want it to stop, but there isn’t just one action which is going to make that difference.
“And the police have a huge challenge, but all of us, and politicians and the media, have a role to play in making sure that when police actions are subject to dispute and challenge that they properly listen to the explanations, that they wait for reports and investigations, and look at those outcomes rather than, sometimes, what we see is knee-jerking responses on the back of one photograph or one interview.
“The police need to be accountable, they need to explain their decision making, and things like body-worn video, consultation meetings, ride-alongs, documentaries, open days – the police are getting much more accountable and transparent in what they do.
“And we, the public, need to listen and understand the difficult and on occasions impossible job we require them to do on behalf of us all.”
The comments come after Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life sentence on Thursday for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
The Old Bailey heard Couzens, had been planning for at least a month before abducting Ms Everard, 33, as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
Metropolitan Police firearms officer Couzens, who had been “hunting” for a victim, used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the marketing executive off the street using Covid lockdown rules to make a false arrest.