Socialist Worker

Sarah Everard case shows deep sexism in the cops

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2774

On the vigil for Sarah Everard in south London in March

On the vigil for Sarah Everard in south London in March (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Wayne Couzens, the police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in March was handed a whole-life sentence for his crimes last Thursday.

Couzens used his police warrant card to lure Everard off the street before strangling her with his police belt and burning her body 80 miles away in Kent.

Video footage shows Couzens handcuffing Everard and putting her in his car. Hours before, he had been on shift as an armed officer outside the US embassy in London.

What particularly shocked the court was Couzens’ abuse of his power. But this isn’t an isolated event.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said of her officers, “Sadly on ­occasion, I have a bad ‘un.”

Yet the details of the case show the scandal is about much more than the bad behaviour of one officer.

Evidence revealed Couzens’ colleagues knew him to be a sexual offender and a potential danger to women.

Couzens’ colleagues at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary nicknamed him “the rapist” before he joined the Met.

He was identified as the suspect in an indecent exposure case six years ago. Kent police received a report in June 2015 that a man had been seen driving naked from the waist down.

It is thought there may have been enough information in the Kent police system to identify the man as Couzens at the time.

Yet police only made the link and referred the allegations to their pet watchdog the IOPC in May 2021, two months after Couzens ­murdered Everard.

And three days before he abducted Sarah Everard, Couzens exposed himself at a McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant.

Identified

Staff reported the incident to police, who identified his car via CCTV. He was not arrested, leaving him free to kidnap, rape and murder.

It was also an open secret that Couzens had a taste for extreme pornography.

Sir Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, on Thursday confirmed that Couzens was known as “the rapist” by other officers.

Winsor admitted that Couzens had “a reputation in terms of drug abuse, extreme pornography and other offences of this kind.”

Twelve notices have now been served for allegations of misconduct during police investigations against Couzens prior to Everard’s murder.

Even after Couzen’s guilty plea, some of his colleagues spoke supportively in court, in a bid to have his sentence reduced.

One officer also allegedly shared an inappropriate image relating to the killing with others over social media, before working at the scene of the search for Everard.

Cressida Dick and, the Tories, and the rest of the police would like to use Couzen’s sentencing to draw a line under the scandal.

But the case has shone a light on the institutional sexism that made Couzens feel at home—and the anger isn’t going away.


Insitutional sexism is built into the very nature of what the police are for

Even some former top cops are having to admit they have a problem.

Lib Dem Lord Brian Paddick—a former deputy commissioner in the Met—spoke of “widespread sexism within the force.”

Between 2019 and 2020, 160 officers in the Met were accused of sexual assault, harassment and other forms of misconduct.

Only four have been “suspended or restricted” as a result.

In the four years to 2020, more than half of Met officers found guilty of sexual misconduct kept their jobs.

Across Britain women have been killed by at least 15 serving or former police officers since 2009—and the true figure is likely to be much higher.

The majority were killed by their partners.

We know the police are institutionally sexist, and an analysis of the system we live under and the role cops play within it explains why.

The job of the police is to reinforce the power structures of the state.

That state exists for the rich to oppress the poor under a system reliant on oppression.

As the police exist to uphold this system, they reflect the ideas that flow from it. That’s why the police attracts some of the worst sexists, racists and bullies to its ranks.

They relish the power and coercive methods it grants them, and thrive among their bigoted pals.

Why the cops are corrupt to the core
Why the cops are corrupt to the core
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You won’t last long as a cop if you don’t fit in with them.

“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,” said Paddick.

It’s true not all cops rape and murder. But from spy cops who had relationships with their targets, to officers who harass assault victims, sexism in the police is rife.

And they are more likely to get away with it because they are part of that institution.

A witness assumed Everard “must have done something wrong” when they saw her approached by Couzens. This says something about how we’re told to see the police, and the power they have.

And it’s not just individual acts from officers that make the police sexist.

The fact their crimes are defended and ignored plays a role.

Dick’s denials of behaviour within her own force shows how the issue also comes from the top, and it further encourages sexism.

Couzens’ nickname “the rapist” shows that sexist attitudes were not just put up with, but accepted and even deemed funny.

Sexism isn’t down to just “one bad apple” who lets down an otherwise noble profession.

The police don’t protect us. They’re given power over us that they use and abuse.

And most of the time they’re allowed to get away with it.


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