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NEARLY 400 officers have been reported over allegations of abusing power for sexual gain in the last two years, the leader of a police watchdog has revealed.
Independent Office for Police Conduct director-general Michael Lockwood said it was “now or never” for policing culture to change in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder.
Writing in the Times on Thursday, Mr Lockwood said the watchdog had seen 394 referrals where abuse of power for sexual gain by officers was a factor, of which 109 triggered an investigation.
Mr Lockwood added that police chiefs have been defensive when confronted with concerns about police behaviour regarding social media, racism, stop and search and the use of Tasers.
“Our work highlights that police officers falling below the expected standards of behaviour are not one-offs, nor can they be dismissed as isolated ‘bad apples’,” he said.
“We remain concerned about a culture where some officers don’t see anything wrong with sharing deeply offensive messages on social media and where others feel unable or unwilling to challenge this and other unacceptable behaviours.”
While the issue has been put under the spotlight due to the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard by a serving Met officer, the abuse of police powers for sexual gain is not a new problem among forces.
An earlier report found that in the three years up to March 31 2019, the watchdog received 415 referrals where abuse of power for sexual gain by officers was a factor.
And between 2014 and 2017, the watchdog received 320 referrals, 57 of which required investigation.
The 2017 report, carried out by a body then known as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies, raised concerns that police forces do not always recognise this issue as a form of “serious corruption.”
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