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Surrey Police Doesn’t Have the Culture Challenges Faced By the Met, says Surrey PCC

Published on: 22 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 22 Apr, 2022

By Julie Armstrong

Surrey Police is in a better place than the Met Police when it comes to force culture, Surrey’s police and crime commissioner has said.

PCC Lisa Townsend told Surrey County Council’s police and crime panel yesterday (April 21) : “We know that policing generally has challenges around culture.

“I think we’re in a better place in Surrey than most forces and certainly perhaps our nearest neighbour of Metropolitan Police.”

On Wednesday, Met Police acting head Sir Stephen House admitted that cultural problems in that force are “not a few bad apples” and said a campaign had been launched to root out racism and sexism.

It follows scandals including Sarah Everard’s murder by serving officer Wayne Couzens, a Charing Cross team exchanging offensive messages and a black girl wrongly suspected of carrying cannabis strip-searched at a Hackney school while she was menstruating.

A Surrey Police campaign, Do the Right Thing, encourages all staff to take responsibility for calling out misogyny and any sexist joke or inappropriate sexual remark made by a colleague.

“The chief constable has been very clear that there isn’t a place in our police force for people like that,” said Ms Townsend.

Chief Constable Gavin Stephens

Speaking to the public via Facebook Live in October, Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said he was “determined to root out” unacceptable behaviour that was sometimes referred to as “banter or canteen culture” and “I have sadly, and will continue to do so, dismissed colleagues from policing who’ve engaged in that sort of behaviour.”

He said he was “not naive to the fact that there may be things that still go unreported”, but they have “systems of support inside the organisation that people can reach out to in confidence”.

External complaints against Surrey Police generally have gone up in the last year, though according to the PCC they are low compared to other forces.

Surrey Police’s professional standards department recorded an average of 204 complaint cases a month between February 2021 and January 2022, an increase from 185 a month the previous year and just 33 a month in 2019/20.

Most were about the general level of service. Fifty-eight complaint cases alleged discriminatory behaviour – 40 relating to race and four to sex – nine related to sexual conduct and one to abuse of position for sexual purpose, between April 1 2021 and March 6 2022.

Data provided to the panel did not show how many of those particular complaints were upheld.

There was a “very low threshold” for recording complaints, said Ms Townsend – whose office now reviews complaints against the police when outcomes are appealed – but “I would rather it was that way than the other way round”.

Cllr Paul Kennedy

She added: “The biggest, saddest, most difficult issue for policing in the last year and beyond has been some of the behaviours that we’ve seen from a very small number of officers – thankfully not in Surrey – and we know how much they know it affects confidence in policing, so there is a real effort to really break that cycle.”

PCC panel member Cllr Paul Kennedy said: “I share your admiration for the chief constable’s approach to culture, but nevertheless you and we owe it to residents to guard against complacency.”

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Responses to Surrey Police Doesn’t Have the Culture Challenges Faced By the Met, says Surrey PCC

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    April 23, 2022 at 10:14 am

    The system for holding the police to account just does not work. This is a very serious problem.

    For Surrey Police to congratulate itself on being better than what might be, the worst police force in the country demonstrates that the police, as an institution, just do not get it.

    The problem is not with “a few bad apples”. It is the design of the apple cart.

    The public has to get past saying “please” and “thank you” to the police for doing the job they are paid to do and establish a proper system for holding them to account.

    The police, like the civil service, publish fine-sounding “codes of conduct” but they are worthless while the police have exclusive responsibility for investigating themselves. Any member of the public who discovers he/she has been conned has to perform the 12 Labours of Hercules before the misnamed Independent Office of Police Conduct lifts a finger.

    Everyone should read: 1) the Daniel Morgan Enquiry Panel Report on the Met; 2) Sir Richard Henriques’ report on Operation Midland; and 3) the inquest report into the murders of Stephen Port and the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report on the Met. They beggar belief.

    I’d wager that a majority of Londoners wonder whether any police officer they encounter may also be a criminal. I’m what is known as a White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) and I certainly doubt the honesty and integrity of police officers.

    At this point, I must make the ritual statement that of course a very large number of police officers are honest decent citizens and some go way beyond “the call of duty”. We salute them. But the problem is the same as with advertising budgets, in which half of the money is wasted but no one can say which half.

    The police treat their own misconduct as a legal game in which they spend large amounts of public money on expensive lawyers to justify the unjustifiable and exonerate the guilty.

    All investigations of police misconduct must be taken out of the hands of the police themselves.

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