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Plain-clothed Met cops to video call colleagues when stopping lone women
20 October 2021, 12:15 | Updated: 20 October 2021, 18:25
Plain-clothes Metropolitan Police officers on solo patrol will video call a uniformed colleague to confirm their identity when stopping a lone woman, it has been announced.
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The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick announced the move today, at the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, in wake of the murder of Sarah Everad.
Plain clothes officers will still patrol predominantly in groups of two or more with the extra mechanism only used for the ‘very rare occasions’ where a plain clothes officer is alone.
The force has recieved criticism after suggesting that women who are concerned they are not being stopped legitimately should try to flag down a passing bus or run to a nearby house.
When asked whether the advice had been reviewed, Dame Cressida told the committee: "I completely understand why that ended up as the headline. It was not intended, and it is not how we see things. Yes we have reviewed it and I think we would address the question differently were it to come again in the future.
"What I can say today is that we are launching our Safe Connection, as we call it, which allows a woman who is stopped by such a police officer immediately to have verification that this is a police officer.
"Because my plain-clothes officers will call into a control room, they will then have a video call with a sergeant in uniform who will say 'yes that's so-and-so, he's PC XYZ'. So a quick and easy way which is instigated by the officer, not by the woman having to ask for this."
Fears were raised after Ms Everard was raped and murdered by Wayne Couzens, a serving officer who used his warrant card and police-issue handcuffs to kidnap the 33-year-old as she walked home from a friend's house in south London in March this year.
He had previously been accused of indecent exposure in 2015 and in the days before the murder, and police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct is considering whether the allegations were investigated properly by Kent Police and the Metropolitan Police.
Wiltshire Police have already announced a similar scheme whereby officers will put their personal radio on loudspeaker and ask their control room to confirm their identity.
Dame Cressida stressed that the onus should be on the police officer to properly identify themselves, and that the bus advice given was "if all else fails" when someone may want to try to get help.
She said: "I want to be clear, the onus is on the officer.
"The onus is on the officer to deal professionally with the person that they are speaking to, and in the very unusual circumstance in which a plain-clothes officer is talking to a lone female, which is likely to be extremely unusual in London, we would expect them to go to every effort first of all to recognise that the woman may feel uncomfortable, to explain themselves well, to identify themselves well.
"It would normally be the case that they would be in a pair anyway."