Failures in reporting domestic abuse perpetrated by police officers and others employed by the police
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In March 2020 the Centre for Women’s Justice submitted a super-complaint to The Police Inspectorate highlighting systemic failures women are experiencing when reporting domestic abuse perpetrated by police officers and others employed by the police.
Surrey Police was one of the forces cited in this super-complaint that referred to 19 cases involving fifteen different forces.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Fiona Macpherson explains: “This complaint led us to immediately undertake work to understand the realities of the themes raised within the super complaint, and how those themes were approached in our own force. We know that we have had officers and police staff who perpetrate abuse and violence against their partners and family members and we know that we have not always responded in the right way.
“We are committed to bringing this issue to light and to ensuring that any member of Surrey Police - officers or staff - know that this behaviour has no place within our force, and that we will do all we can to uncover such wrongdoing. We also want survivors to know that Surrey Police is committed to ensuring that they will be listened to and supported, and that the additional considerations of the workplace element will be recognised and responded to.”
The complaint highlights 11 common themes relating to the way police handle domestic abuse allegations against officers and members of police staff. Not all of these elements relate to Surrey Police but the work that the force is doing now will seek to understand the realities of survivors’ experiences so that no survivor feels let down and no perpetrator goes unchallenged.
Michelle Blunsom, CEO of East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services, has been working closely with Surrey Police on this complaint, and says: “15 forces provided information to the Centre for Women’s Justice via a Freedom of Information request and survivors from across the country also bravely anonymously provided their experiences of domestic abuse at the hands of police officers and staff as part of this process.
“I know that Surrey Police is committed to having a zero tolerance to perpetrators of domestic abuse. However all forces including Surrey Police have work to do to make this a reality. We know that the very nature of domestic abuse means that it often goes on behind closed doors and that perpetrators often have a public and private face. We also know that survivors have struggled to feel safe in reporting domestic abuse when their partner is a serving police officer or member of police staff. We welcome Surrey Police’s proactive approach in tackling this complex and difficult issue and we will continue to work with them to ensure that the lived experiences of those affected by the issues raised in the Super-complaint are heard. We must learn from those with lived experienced if we are to tackle domestic abuse within our society. We want to reassure survivors that the specialist Outreach Services in Surrey are completely independent from Surrey Police - we want you to feel confident to contact us if you are affected by these issues”.
T/ACC Macpherson continues: “We will be working closely with the College of Policing on any recommendations and learning that comes from their investigation. What is important is how we learn and ensure that we foster a culture where survivors of domestic abuse feel safe enough to be able to disclose in their workplace and believe they will receive the service they deserve. Although it should go without saying, a survivor’s voice must always be heard and listened to.”
Surrey Police has reviewed its domestic abuse workplace policy to ensure that there are measures in place to address the issues raised in the super complaint; investigation teams will continue to receive regular training, and managers and supervisors will ensure that support will be built around a victim’s individual needs.