Plain-clothes officers in Britain’s biggest police force will video call a uniformed colleague to confirm their identity when stopping a lone woman, it has been announced.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told members of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that the new system will be introduced following the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer who staged a fake arrest in order to kidnap her.
The force was heavily criticised after suggesting that women who are concerned they are not being stopped legitimately should try to flag down a passing bus or run to a nearby house.
When asked whether the advice had been reviewed, Dame Cressida told the committee: “I completely understand why that ended up as the headline. It was not intended, and it is not how we see things. Yes we have reviewed it and I think we would address the question differently were it to come again in the future.
“What I can say today is that we are launching our Safe Connection, as we call it, which allows a woman who is stopped by such a police officer immediately to have verification that this is a police officer.
“Because my plain-clothes officers will call into a control room, they will then have a video call with a sergeant in uniform who will say ‘yes that’s so-and-so, he’s PC XYZ’. So a quick and easy way which is instigated by the officer, not by the woman having to ask for this.”
Wiltshire Police have already announced a similar scheme whereby officers will put their personal radio on loudspeaker and ask their control room to confirm their identity.
Dame Cressida stressed that the onus should be on the police officer to properly identify themselves, and that the bus advice given was “if all else fails” when someone may want to try to get help.
She said: “I want to be clear, the onus is on the officer.
“The onus is on the officer to deal professionally with the person that they are speaking to, and in the very unusual circumstance in which a plain-clothes officer is talking to a lone female, which is likely to be extremely unusual in London, we would expect them to go to every effort first of all to recognise that the woman may feel uncomfortable, to explain themselves well, to identify themselves well.
“It would normally be the case that they would be in a pair anyway.”
The news came as British Transport Police confirmed it is launching a judicial review over a decision to allow an officer who flashed his warrant card and harassed a lone female jogger to keep his job.
Pc Imran Aftab pestered the woman for her phone number and told her she was “too curvy too be Asian”, but only received a final written warning after disciplinary proceedings in York.
On Wednesday a spokeswoman for British Transport Police said: “We totally agree this was an appalling incident and as is the case in misconduct hearings, the decision not to dismiss PC Aftab was made by an independent panel, led by a legally qualified chair.
“We don’t agree with their decision, and as such took legal advice immediately after the hearing in May before instigating a judicial review to appeal this. This is currently ongoing and we await the outcome.”
Ms Everard was raped and murdered by Wayne Couzens, a serving officer who used his warrant card and police-issue handcuffs to kidnap the 33-year-old as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London in March this year.
He had previously been accused of indecent exposure in 2015 and in the days before the murder, and police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct is considering whether the allegations were investigated properly by Kent Police and the Metropolitan Police.