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Police say they feel "betrayed" by Wayne Couzens. But he's just the tip of the iceberg.

London's Metropolitan Police force have been eager to distance themselves from Wayne Couzens, the man who was last week jailed for the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.

Dressed in plain clothes and driving a hire car, the serving police officer had used his warrant card and handcuffs to falsely arrest the marketing executive for breaching COVID-19 orders while she was walking home from a friend's place on the evening of March 3. He then drove her to a secluded woodland area near Kent where he raped her, murdered her, and set her body alight.

A senior investigator on Sarah Everard’s case, former DCI Simon Harding, said police officers don't view Couzens as one of them, that "he doesn’t hold the same values as a police officer. He doesn’t have the same personality as we do". Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick echoed that sentiment, saying "everyone in policing feels betrayed". 

Watch former DCI Simon Harding talk about the case. Post continues after video.


Video via Sky News.

But while Couzens' crime may be a particularly brutal anomaly, it's apparent that police forces in London and beyond are anything but immune from sexism, misogyny and even sexual violence within their ranks.

Just this week, a probe by British news outlet The Sunday Mirror found that 26 of Wayne Couzens' colleagues from the 'Met' had committed sex offences over the past five years.

Among their crimes were rape, indecent exposure and possession of indecent images of children.

Couzens himself had been the subject of an indecent exposure allegation in 2015, and another just three days prior to killing Everard. In the more recent case, it was alleged he was involved in a 'flashing' incident at a McDonalds. The police handling of those claims is now under investigation.

Other examples of concerning behaviour have emerged that went unchecked. 

Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered while walking home in London. Image: AAP.

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For one, he was also jokingly referred to by colleagues as "The Rapist" because he made women in his workplace feel uncomfortable. He also was a member of a WhatsApp group in which he and other police officers allegedly shared several "vile" messages of a "misogynistic, racist and homophobic" nature.

Two members of the group are now under investigation, but remain on duty.

A similar WhatsApp group was reported by a former Met detective back in 2019, but an internal investigation found no cause for action against the men involved. 

Former Detective Superintendent Paige Kimberley told a tribunal that the chat group had been established for work-related communication, but she noticed that when she left her role, the messages became increasingly problematic.

She said that the "aggressive and inappropriate messages" included "a graphic image of a diseased vagina, messages calling women slags and disclosing very misogynistic and sexist attitudes towards women".

These revelations, which have emerged since Couzens arrest, have raised serious questions about a culture problem within the police.

As have comments from senior Met officers about Sarah Everard's behaviour that evening, which many have argued strays into victim-blaming territory.

Indeed, in a statement about "issues raised by the crimes of Wayne Couzens", the force offered suggestions as to how women can keep themselves safe when stopped by a lone officer wearing civilian clothes, including questioning the officer about where they've come from and why they've stopped them, demanding to hear or speak to their radio operator, or "shouting out to a passer-by, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or, if you are in the position to do, so calling [emergency services]."

Many say this infers Sarah Everard could have done more to avoid being abducted by Couzens.

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Another British police boss earlier suggested that women ought to be more "streetwise" about why they can and can't be arrested: "[Sarah Everard] should never have been arrested and submitted to that," North Yorkshire police commissioner Philip Allott told the BBC. "Perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process."

The sentiment echoes that issued by a senior Victoria Police officer after the murder of Eurydice Dixon, a 22-year-old comedian who was attacked in Carlton while walking home from a late-night gig in 2018. In a statement after the crime, north-west division superintendent, David Clayton, issued a message to the community to be "aware of their surroundings".

"Take responsibility for your safety," he said. "Make sure people know where you are. And if you’ve got a mobile phone, carry it, and if you’ve got any concerns at all, call police."

All things of which women tend to already be keenly aware — including Dixon, who had messaged a friend that she was en route and "nearly home safe".

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was praised for offering an alternative viewpoint.

"Our message to Victorian women is this. Stay home. Or don't. Go out with friends at night. Or don't. Go about your day exactly as you intend, on your terms," Andrews wrote on Facebook. "Because women don't need to change their behaviour. Men do."

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.

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