A watchdog has issued a report that reveals that police officers and staff in England and Wales do not have to up to date vetting procedure, and are using their positions to abuse victims for sex and sexual favours.
The report has revealed that 415 allegations have been made so far against officers “for abusing their position for a sexual purpose in three years.” The numbers have been rising since 2016, but the actual extent is not fully known.
The report found that 13 percent of staff members of the police force are not subject to any up to date vetting. This percentage amounts to 35,000 people of the workforce.
Following the imprisonment of a police officer for raping a 13 year old girl, HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said:
“We have been urging the police to act on this issue for some years now. Many forces have listened and are already making changes but I’ve been deeply disappointed to find that others have, after all this time, still not put some basic measures in place.”
The report reveals that Ian Naude was not vetted after transferring from Cheshire Police to another police force. He was already a suspect in grooming allegations when he transferred forces. Had he been adequately vetted, he would not have been a police officer.
HMICFRS said the offenders were mainly male officers and targeted women for sex or sexual favours in return for
“dropping penalties, unnecessary searches, inappropriate communications, or using police systems to gain personal details and pursue an improper relationship.”
HMICFRS have raised concerns that the forces are not keeping accurate data on vetting or complying with the national guidance that requires that all staff are checked every 10 years. All forces were given until December to put the national standards in place and vet all staff. The national standard was introduced in 2006. When the report was prepared only 25 forces had met the requirements for the national standard.
Inspectors said that there is no requirement that officers must be vetted when changing forces, even though concerns have been raised.
Ms Billingham said
“It is important to recognise that this sort of abuse of power is thankfully incredibly rare, and the vast majority of officers and staff are dedicated public servants who would never contemplate this inexcusable behaviour.”
“Nonetheless, even one instance of abuse of position for a sexual purpose is one too many. It is an appalling betrayal of often vulnerable people, and can be devastating to those who fall prey to it. Although the numbers of people involved are small, forces must do all they can to prevent, detect and deal with this serious form of corruption.”
Phill Matthews, the association’s conduct and performance lead, said:
“We welcome the report as it is important forces take the right steps to prevent and tackle this issue, however, it must be reiterated that officers do not stand for this type of abhorrent behaviour and are often the ones who themselves root out the tiny minority who abuse their position.”
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said it will be working with the chief constable to ensure more is done to tackle sexual abuse.