The policing minister has said it would be “perfectly reasonable” for anyone being approached by a lone police officer to call 999 and seek reassurance in the wake of the rape and murder of Sarah Everard.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Kit Malthouse gave advice on what people should do if they are approached by a lone police officer, although he said most do not patrol on their own.
Yesterday, Wayne Couzens, a serving officer at the time, was given a whole life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard in March this year.
Mr Malthouse said: “If anybody has any doubts about that police officer, they should question the officer on what they’re doing and if there are any doubts they should ask to speak to the control room on that officer’s radio or call 999… that is the devastating consequence of this awful man’s actions.”
He added: “I think it would be perfectly reasonable in similar circumstances for somebody to question the officer, seek reassurance, if that means asking them to identify themselves by speaking to the control room or calling in 999 if they feel in danger, then I’m afraid that’s where we’ve got to.”
Mr Malthouse said Couzens’ actions have “undermined the good work of thousands and thousands of police officers”.
The policing minister said the murder of Ms Everard by Couzens was a “devastating blow” to the police but defended Met Commissioner Cressida Dick after calls for her resignation.
He said that Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder had “struck a devastating blow to confidence in the police, and in the Met Police in particular”.
Zoe Billingham, former Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, told Sky News the focus now needs to be on what needs to change in policing and what needs to be learned from “this monster so it can never ever happen again”.
The Met sent a letter to MPs last night, seen by Sky News, containing advice to those arrested by a single plain clothes officer, saying they should ask “some very searching questions” about who they are and what they are doing.
It adds that officers can expect the public to be “understandably concerned and more distrusting than they previously would have been, and should and will expect to be asked more questions”.
Following grim details during Couzens sentencing this week about how he used his position to falsely arrest Ms Everard, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, has joined senior Labour MP Harriet Harman in calling for Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign over the murder of Ms Everard.
Ms Nokes told Sky News: “The Met need to rebuild trust, and telling women to run if someone purporting to be a police officer tries to arrest them is not a solution.
“The Commissioner has had six months since Sarah Everard’s murder to come out with a plan to help restore trust in the service she leads – since he pleaded guilty there has only been one outcome possible – she needed to lay out her plans to restore trust yesterday, in detail.”
But Mr Malthouse said he thinks Ms Dick should remain as he wants a police leader who is transparent and can learn lessons.
“I think that’s Cressida Dick,” he said.
He added that he thinks being Met commissioner is “possibly one of the top three most difficult jobs in the country” but having worked with Ms Dick for years he is confident she is “committed to whatever changes come out of the lessons learnt”.
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