Recently I have been criticised for my criticism of police – labelled as ‘anti-police’ and ‘cop hater’, all because I’ve dared to question the attitudes, beliefs or comments of some officers.
Whilst I don’t deny questioning or challenging certain negative behaviour from police officers (and feel justified in doing so), I have also given credit where it has been due. Following the verdict of the court case in December, I took time to publicly thank those individual police officers, whom I had met via Twitter, for the time and effort they had each given to help rebuild my faith in the police service, without which I wouldn’t have proceeded with the court case. I also published a blog https://wordpress.com/post/ivy1428.wordpress.com/86 to express my gratitude to all those officers who have had a positive influence on our lives.
Although I will always try to praise the good work carried out by those police officers who work hard and do all they can as often as they can to help those in need of assistance, this will not stop me questioning those whose attitudes, beliefs or behaviour warrants challenging. Personally, I don’t think this amounts to being ‘anti-police’ or a ‘cop hater’.
I haven’t publicly shared the reasons for my initial critical view of the police service as a whole, but will share a little of my experience now which will hopefully provide some insight and offer an explanation for my negative views at times.
My sexual abuse was first brought to the attention of police in the late 80’s when I was 17. Two A&E consultants contacted police over concerns of injuries they had uncovered during a hospital admission. The police dismissed their written reports stating they had spoken to my alleged abuser who had denied any wrongdoing. I was subsequently released back into his care. I fully accept that the 80’s were a completely different era and incidents of abuse were not handled as seriously or as sensitively as they are now.
Imagine my utter disappointment then when I was encouraged to contact police in late 2014 to report on-going sexual and domestic violence, to be met with a police officer informing me that he didn’t believe me and that I had derived sexual gratification from my abusive experience. 25 years on and attitudes and beliefs didn’t appear to have changed much.
What followed were months of chaotic and disjointed investigations in which multiple officers from various different divisions and even different police forces were involved, none of whom were willing to share information or communicate with each other.
At the very start of the investigation I was asked to take part in a number of interviews which were used as a ‘scoping exercise’ to determine the complexity of the case, and to decide who would be best placed to manage and further investigate the case. It emerged earlier this year (2016) following an internal review, that my case was initially handed to the DV Unit for them to manage. Whilst they were prepared to investigate the case against my husband, they were not prepared to investigate the sexual offences carried out by his colleagues/associates whom he had involved in my abuse. The case was subsequently handed to the Sexual Offences Unit for them to investigate. They deemed the offences were linked to trafficking and passed the case to the unit dealing with trafficking for sexual exploitation. However, because I was being trafficked by members of my own family my case didn’t fall within their remit. As I had been forced into marrying my husband they passed my case onto the Forced Marriage Unit. Once again, because my forced marriage was for sexual exploitation reasons and not due to cultural or religious beliefs they refused to take ownership of the case. As each specialised unit had deemed that my case did not fit their individual remit, my case was eventually handed back to the original CID officer from my local Neighbourhood Poling Team for him to investigate.
As the CID officer from my local police station had not previously investigated any DV or Rape cases (his remit was burglary, theft, drunk/drug related offences, shop lifting and physical assaults) he decided he would only investigate the incidents which occurred within his geographical area, the rest he passed on to the police stations/forces in which the additional incidents had occurred for them to conduct their own investigations. This involved a further 18 individual officers. I requested that one officer be appointed as my ‘Point of Contact’ in order that I didn’t have to deal with each of these separate officers, but this request was refused. I also requested that one officer be appointed to conduct the video interviews for each of the sexual offences involving the different offenders. Again, this request was refused and I was informed that each of the separate officers would conduct their own individual video interviews.
I’m sure I do not need to explain the level of distress this caused. I recall attending one interview with a CID officer from a different division. Thankfully my IDVA attended the police station with me. The incident he was investigating was a physical assault which had been carried out in his geographical area by an offender who had previously raped me. Prior to the interview being conducted I was led into a meeting room with my IDVA. There I was instructed by the CID officer that I was only to discuss the events relating to the actual physical assault during the interview, under no circumstances whatsoever was I to mention that the offender had previously raped me. In his words, “that’s not my remit, I don’t handle rape cases, someone else will speak to you about that”. After asking me if we were clear I was then led off to complete the interview.
Ten days later I was sat in a Multi-Agency Case Conference Meeting attended by over 15 professionals. The Police Safeguarding Officer handed over her report in which it stated that I had refused to co-operate with police by refusing to provide a police statement for the rape by this individual. I was beyond speechless. My IDVA immediately interrupted the meeting to state that she had attended the police station with me 10 days prior and had been present when I was instructed by the CID officer not to discuss the rape. The Chair of the meeting interjected by stating that the CID officer referred to, was not currently present at the meeting to either confirm or deny what had been said, and therefore the report stating I was refusing to co-operate with police would stand.
That is one of the main reasons I will not trust what a police officer tells me. When a police officer can instruct you to not disclose information, you comply, and they then go on to write a report stating you refused to provide information ……. There are simply no words for that level of betrayal. From that moment on, any meeting that I am required to attend with police I won’t do unless accompanied by legal representation.
Whilst all of this was going on, we were also being relocated multiple times for safeguarding reasons. Even when we moved to a new force area, the DI in charge of our safeguarding requested that the investigation process be consolidated and overseen by one specialised unit in order to better facilitate our safeguarding. His request was refused. As such, he found it impossible to try to continue to safeguard us with the number of individuals involved in our case and except for the one case which proceeded to court in December he advised and requested that I withdraw from all additional cases, a request which I agreed to.
I now have in excess of 250 pages from various reviews which have been carried out in relation to our case (Internal Review, Independent Review and Serious Case Review). The reviews highlight all the errors which occurred during the management and investigation of our case. Whilst I have received written apologies from every other agency involved in our case for the errors which occurred in their management and handling of the case, I have, to date, not received any apology from my original Police Force for the errors which occurred during their management and investigation of our case.
Whilst I have been assured that ‘Lessons will be learnt’ I am not convinced that any actions or changes have been implemented to ensure that the same mistakes do not reoccur in the future.
It is as a result of my own personal experience that I continue to challenge and question negative attitudes, beliefs or behaviour from within the Police Service as I would hate for any other individual to ever have to endure what we faced. I don’t believe that my criticism amounts to being ‘anti-police’ or a ‘cop hater’ and hope that by sharing this little bit of my story will help provide more clarity as to why I choose to question and challenge.