I couldn't think of a polite title for this piece, so angry am I at the attitude of West Midlands Police regarding the voicemail inadvertently left on a victim's mobile phone following her reporting an incident of domestic abuse.
In case you missed it, two West Midlands Police officers left a voicemail describing a woman as a 'fucking slag' and a 'bitch. You can read the full story via this link, including an audio clip that makes for grim listening.
I'd like to say that I was surprised - after all, the police are meant to be improving their service to victims. Some of them use social media to engage the public, saying all the right things in snappy 140 character soundbites. However, I wasn't remotely surprised.
Women tell us that the police respond appallingly. Certainly, in light of the most recent HMIC Rape Monitoring report, they are certainly not instilling us with confidence in them. This recent incident is just another failure by the police.
This will not be an isolated incident. The language used by these officers tripped off their tongues so easily, that we know this is the language that they use regularly. It is part of their culture; so ingrained into their service that it becomes unnoticeable and unremarkable. This incident is different only in the fact that this attitude was caught on tape. The flippant use of the term 'slag' and 'bitch' shows that misogyny is alive and well amongst frontline police officers.
In light of this, I have been doing some googling about officers who are blogging, and using social media. This tweet was sent to us - we don't have a screen cap of the original tweet, as the officer (Inspector!) has now deleted it. I think we can safely say that language of this type is ingrained into police culture.
I've also found a blog, titled 'The Reality of a Rape Allegation' and I was hoping for some insight into how much work officers put into the cases, how difficult they are, how perpetrators will use numerous excuses, how rape myths are difficult to avoid but police training ensures they can do their best not to contribute to them, etc. Well, was I to be disappointed.
This is a clean link to the blog, because frankly, I have no intention of increasing its page rank.
The officer in question blogs anonymously, which we fully understand. It unfortunately also means we don't know where this officer works, so we can try to avoid him. To save you clicking into the blog, I have taken some of the more eye-watering comments, to save you having to actually look at the blog yourself:
Those of you with any experience of Policing knows what was about to happen…
‘Mike Oscar Four Four…Immediate call to College Green…female reporting sexual assault by a named offender…believed to be her ex-partner…please respond’
We looked at each-other as the details of the incident came in. We shouldn’t be immediately cynical, but we were. That cynicism didn’t change the way we responded to the call or the victim or dealt with the situation in any way, it’s just an unfortunate side effect of being used as a weapon by one person against another on many, many occasions.
'We shouldn't be immediately cynical, but we were'. Oh. Really. That's reassuring, officers. Are you 'immediately cynical' when called to an affray? When someone reports fraud? A house burglary? Vehicle crime? Or do you save your cynicism for reports of rape and sexual violence. Rhetorical question, obviously. We already know the answer.
My crew-mate turned to me as we got the tape from the boot of the car…
‘I think this is a real one’
she said….and I agreed. We identified a scene and confirmed the details of the suspect (an ex-partner from a few months ago). Due to the nature of the offence and the fact that it had been committed in a public place we were going to need at least two officers to remain there…two of us with the victim…four officers to go and arrest the suspect and search his address for clothing and a couple of items belonging to the victim that he still had…on-call CID…separate on-call scenes of crime officers for the victim and the scene and the offender…and that was just the basics!
Our team’s numbers and chances of eating anything for the foreseeable future were immediately decimated. [my bold]
Oh officers. We're sorry that a woman reporting a rape resulted in you missing your dinner break.
The allegation turned out to be a false one - and as we know, false allegations are extremely rare and certainly no greater than they are for any other crime reported to the police. Not that you'd think that, from the title used by the officer writing this piece, but still.
Such was her desire to prove herself to her current boyfriend, and presumably to ease her guilt at being a little to keen to drop her knickers with the ex, she decided to call the Police and report the assault as this would obviously get him into coming back to her.
'Keen to drop her knickers with the ex'. See what I mean about the language of misogyny being ingrained in police culture?
I hope that no one will read this and form the opinion that allegations of rape are not taken seriously by me or others who do this job, or that victims of genuine assaults will not be believed.
This is simply not the case.
We, as Police, will always deal with an allegation of rape or sexual assault as genuine until it can be proved genuine or not.
Well, if you'd not mentioned the issue of your cynicism, we'd probably take this as truth. As it is, you've proved our point about the institutional disbelief that is faced by those making complaints to the police about domestic & sexual violence and abuse.
Unfortunately cases like this are part of the reason that many officers, including myself, inevitably develop a slightly dubious initial attitude to these types of incident. It doesn’t affect the way we do our job, that would be catastrophic for the victims of genuine assaults, but it’s always there at the back of our minds – that’s human nature.
We know the police fail on rape. Their own internal reports tell us that they do, as well as the women involved in reporting them.
If this piece was meant to reassure us that false allegations waste police time, we know this already. We don't need a patronising, misogynistic, cynical & anonymous police officer to tell us this.
They are also not the 'reality' of 'rape allegations'.
When you wonder why we don't report, we will refer you to these officers and ask - having seen this; would you?