The Metropolitan Police force is "not doing enough to prevent officers abusing their position for sexual purposes".
Following concerns by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) that forces across England and Wales were failing to tackle the problem of officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain, forces were given six months to develop and begin to implement a plan to better identify possible abuse.
This included plans to review and improve the ability of counter-corruption units to identify potential abuse of position for a sexual purpose, through being properly resourced and having staff with the right skills, as well as plans for improving capability to monitor and audit IT systems to identify individuals who misuse them for corrupt activity.
Forces were also expected to come up with plans for how they would build links to organisations that work with vulnerable people, such as domestic abuse charities, in order to improve reporting and intelligence gathering on potential abuses.
The Met Police’s plans did not reflect this national strategy agreed at the National Police Chiefs’ Council in April of this year, according to HMICFRS.
While previous inspections by HMICFRS found that the force already had IT systems’ monitoring capability, the force gave no information to assess progress in reviewing the capability and capacity of its counter-corruption unit or any work done to seek intelligence from organisations that support vulnerable people.
Met Police deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin said: "None of our staff should exploit their position in this way. We've invested a huge amount of effort and work to identify and combat this issue and will continue to do so.
"It's only right we take such a strong position as we understand such behaviour can taint the public's confidence in us."
HMICFRS said the conviction, in January 2011, of PC Stephen Mitchell from Northumbria Police, who was sentenced to two life sentences after being found guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six counts of misconduct in public office, should have been a watershed moment for the police service.
It said the case, while an extreme one, was not an isolated one. Other officers and staff have since been convicted of using their position to engage in sexual activity with vulnerable people they have met through their work.
However, despite a 2012 report on the scale of the problem and HMICFRS’s 2014 inspection findings raising concerns about forces’ anti-corruption capability and capacity, the 2016 PEEL legitimacy inspection continued to identify serious concerns.
These included forces failing to recognise abuse of position for a sexual purpose as serious corruption, failing to refer cases to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and lacking the capacity and capability to seek intelligence on this form of corruption rather than wait for it to be reported.
The majority of police forces in England and Wales still have work do in regard to their planning around preventing the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, according to a report published by HMICFRS.
In December 2016, HMICFRS recommended that within six months all police forces in England and Wales should develop and begin to implement plans required to seek intelligence on potential abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
Forces were asked to submit plans to HMICFRS by May 31 2017 for review.
Upon reviewing individual force plans, HMICFRS found that 11 force plans contained insufficient information, 15 others had plans but had not yet commenced implementation, 15 had plans in place and had started implementation and two already had all elements in place (Derbyshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police).
This report is based on a desk-based review of plans submitted by forces. A full inspection of this and other elements of police legitimacy will be carried out in 2018.
HMI Mike Cunningham, who led this inspection, said: “When police officers and police staff abuse their position for a sexual purpose it has a devastating effect on the lives of victims, and corrodes trust and confidence in the police.
"It is of great importance that forces are prepared to seek intelligence on this type of corruption, and when they find it deal with it vigorously and decisively.
“Following the recommendation in our 2016 report, seventeen forces had made progress in developing and implementing plans. Derbyshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police already had plans in place, and are to be commended on their swift and decisive action.
"Other forces now need to follow suit, as the majority still have significant work to do
to address this critical issue.
“The importance of public trust in the police cannot be understated, and forces need to do everything they can to ensure this trust isn’t eroded.
"HMICFRS will be inspecting how forces have implemented these plans in 2018, so forces now have another opportunity to show they have understood the importance of this issue, and make progress.
“Between our feedback, the NPCC national strategy, changes to the IPCC referral criteria and College of Policing guidance we believe forces have all the information they need to get this right, so we expect to see an improved picture when we inspect next year.”
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