Thursday 30 September 2021

Sarah Everard and what we can all learn and what we should tell our daughters

 As the father of two adult girls, I have to admit that I am horrified by what we learned about the Sarah Everard murder. A serving police officer, who had the nickname of 'Rapist' amongst his colleagues, showed Sarah his warrant card, 'arrested' her, handcuffed her, raped her then murdered her. As a father, I cannot think of a more perverted and sickening misuse of power. What on earth should I advise my daughters to do if a Policeman shows them their warrant card and tries to arrest them? What does this do for trust in the police?

However, the problem is wider. About fifteen years ago, I had to sack a member of staff for gross misconduct. It was nothing to do with issues sexual. I have to admit that I didn't really like the chap, but as an employer, you have to put such feelings to one side and behave in a professional manner. After he left, the two female staff that I was employing at the time told me that they were extremely releived he'd gone. Both said he made them feel extremely uncomfortable. I asked why and both told me that he repeatedly made offensive remarks of a sexual nature. I was horrified. I asked why this had not been raised previously. Both said that they didn't want to 'cause trouble'. Both said that he hadn't actually done anything of a physical nature or anything that they could have pinned down as gross misconduct. As the owner of a small business, it caused me a lot of soul searching. I issued staff with a 'code of conduct' and asked them to sign this. It stated that any breaches would be considered an act of gross misconduct. Amongst other things, this stated that all customers and other staff members should be treated with respect at all times. No comments of a racial or sexual nature would be tolerated. Several members of staff asked if this meant 'Banter was banned'. In each case, I sat down with  them and explained that our two members of staff had told me that they'd been made to feel uncomfortable, to the point both had considered leaving the company. As they were huge assets, I made it clear that people's right to feel happy at work was more important than the right to make silly jokes at other people's expense. 

The Metropolitan Police is a huge organisation. I have several friends who are serving and recently retired. I know all about 'police banter'. I know many officers are highly resistant to the 'woke agenda' and 'Political correctness'. These same officers are horrified by what Wayne Cousins did. I asked one about the nickname of 'Rapist'. He said that this was coined, not because anyone thought Wayne Cousins was a rapist, but because they thought he could be a bit inappropriate at times. They also told me that some officers (not all) were less than keen to work with him. I suspect that, like the individual who worked for us, much of this came out after the event.

What can we learn? Should Wayne Couzens have been kicked out of the Met just because a few officers were reticent to work with him? Of course there is far more evidence that he's a wrong un, but for me that is the difficult part of the equation. Where do we draw the line on what is acceptable and what gets you the sack? And if you complain and the complaint is dismissed, then how does that affect your career. You may be 100% right and vindicated years or decades later, but that is too late for you and your career. 

In answer to the question, I'm not qualified to draw up HR processes etc for the Met Police. It is a totally different beast to a music studio that employs 11 people. What I do know is that they have to address this and demonstrate to the public that they have learned. Many of us are asking 'what should I tell my daughter to do if she is approached by a lone police officer. I will be advising my daughter to call 999 and get them to verify that the officer is a real officer and that there is a proper audit trail. If the officer is genuine, they should have no objection. The Met should put this in the process, it aint rocket science. 

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