Investigation of 13 Gloucestershire police staff over violence and intimidation against women
By Laura Enfield | 27th February 2023
Thirteen employees of Gloucestershire police are being investigated over allegations of male violence against women and girls.
They include reports of criminal and non-criminal incidents involving both serving officers and other staff. Some have been suspended and others moved to different positions within the constabulary.
Det Supt Alastair Stenner, head of professional standards in Gloucestershire, said he understood the news was "very uncomfortable" and "very worrying" for people.
His team is in charge of looking into the allegations and he told the BBC they take the situation "incredibly seriously" and investigations are "thorough".
He said it was "inevitable" there would be more complaints in the future and one case had already been reported directly to professional standards following an email bulletin by the Chief Constable. It led to the staff member being removed from duty.
The 13 cases currently under investigation are all at various stages but if proven would not necessarily lead to a dismissal.
The constabulary said it understood the news would cause "concern" but it wanted to foster a "call-it-out culture" to engender public trust in the force.
Female trust in the police was shaken after the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met Police officer, Wayne Couzens, two years ago.
Chris Nelson, Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, said since then the constabulary had been making a "much more sincere investigation" of these sorts of allegations but things will probably look worse before they get better.
He said: "Obviously I'm very unhappy we have any cases of male violence against women and girls and 13 sounds a lot.
"I think the force has made great progress in the last 20 years and if you concentrate on any crime you will inevitably see a rise in people being accused and offenses being generated."
Ch Supt, Jane Probert is the strategic lead for tackling violence against women and girls in the county and told the BBC the police need to acknowledge the impact of Sarah Everard's murder.
"On the whole we didn't see less reporting so I guess that gives us some measure of that trust and confidence," she said. "But I don't doubt for one second that there were females in the county that either didn't want to contact police in Gloucestershire or felt scared or intimidated."
She has experienced several cases of misogyny during her own 27 year career and was worried reporting it would affect her standing.
"Rewind 20 years and there were things I didn't challenge because I didn't want to be seen as a troublemaker and wanted to fit in with my team and back then they probably would have called it banter," she said.
Last week the Home Office announced violence against women and girls is to be classified as a national threat for policing for the first time, giving it the same status as terrorism.
Mr Nelson said the 13 Gloucestershire investigations, which are all at various stages, involve officers and staff rather than members of the public.
He said: "Some of the 13 are suspended, some have been moved from old jobs to an appropriate location. There's a varying amount of severity within those 13 cases and you have to judge each one on its own merits."
He added: "If proved they wouldn't all lead to dismissal."
Tackling male violence against women and girls is one of his top six priorities but he said it will take time as misogyny is so "embedded in our society".
Measures put in place by the constabulary include bystander and leadership training and improvements to its vetting process to try and ensure it operates at a "higher level" than the rest of society.
Mr Nelson said around 80% of women who experience misogyny do not report it to police. Gloucestershire police hope to improve that with its Flare app- an anonymous system for women to report inappropriate touching, cat calling, more serious crimes which are then used to create crime hotspots.
Mr Nelson said trust in the police was the biggest issue the force currently faces but he believes people in Gloucestershire "love" the police and want to engage with them.
He added: "We are making a lot of progress on this issue of trust and legitimacy."
A statement from Gloucestershire Constabulary said: "There are 13 officers and staff at various stages of disciplinary proceedings in relation to male violence and intimidation against women.
"The cases cover a spectrum of allegations, from non-criminal to criminal, and are all being investigated by the Constabulary's Professional Standards Department.
"We understand this will cause concern but believe it demonstrates our commitment to foster a call-it-out culture, and is a necessary step to ensuring our staff and the wider public have confidence in us.
"The Constabulary has a dedicated, anonymous reporting form on its intranet pages so that staff can alert us to concerns about other staff members and both the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner are treating the issue of male violence and intimidation against women and girls as an absolute priority.
"We understand we need to listen to and act on the experiences of female staff members as well as the wider public, understand our failings and do everything needed to put them right."
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