I should 'shout out to a passer-by'? My faith in the police is shattered

Demonstrators take part in a women's 97% protest march in central London. Picture date: Saturday Apr

The responsibility for women's safety lies with the police, not the victims - Credit: PA

When I was a little girl, I remember being told to find a police officer if I got lost or felt unsafe.  

My faith in the police, like so many young women in London, has been shattered. 

Former Met officer Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to a whole-life prison term for his horrific murder of Sarah Everard in south London earlier this year. 

In response, the police force has released guidance that says, if stopped by an officer, women should ask "searching questions", "seek independent verification", and even "shout out to a passer-by" or "wave a bus down" if they still feel in danger.

Should we also ask a surgeon for references before he operates, or breathalyse the pilot before the plane takes off? 

Once again, the onus has fallen on women to triple-check their own safety, rather than address the Met’s multiple failures which allowed Couzens to kidnap and murder an innocent woman. 

Sarah did everything right. Why would she doubt the integrity of a policeman, question his identity, or run away to find help, when we are told our whole lives that police are the personification of safety? 

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Even if she had taken any of these steps, Couzens would have passed every stage. He wasn’t pretending to be a policeman; he was a policeman. 

Perhaps, critics might argue, we need to cut the force some slack? As Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said in June this year – of the 44,000 people working in the Met, you might get the occasional “bad ’un”. 

The reality is society is littered with "bad ‘uns" – femicide is not a Met-specific issue, and we’re in danger of undermining the scale of the problem if we treat Sarah’s death as such. 

But the absurdity of new guidance which instructs women to look out for themselves better rubs salt into a gaping wound felt by women and girls across London.

We're not suddenly going to take extra care when walking home at night, sharing our live location with a friend so they know where we are, crossing the road if we hear footsteps behind us, or clutch the rape alarms in our pockets if someone is walking too close. 

We already take these steps, and so much more, every day. It’s time for the Met to stop dishing out advice, and to make meaningful change. 

It is the problem, not us. 

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