Police: data shows more than a quarter of UK police forces ‘do not meet vetting guidelines’
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Police: data shows more than a quarter of UK police forces ‘do not meet vetting guidelines’

Figures obtained from Freedom of Information requests show that more than 2,500 police officers and staff are working without the appropriate level of vetting.

A BBC investigation has found that more than 2,500 police officers and staff are working without the appropriate level of vetting.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests show more than a quarter of UK forces have not checked all personnel to meet national guidelines introduced in 2006.

As per the BBC, vetting involves a series of background checks on people wanting to join the police – looking at everything from past convictions, behaviour of family and friends, or financial problems that may leave an applicant open to corruption.

The murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens shone a spotlight on police vetting procedures. As the Independent reports, Couzens had passed several rounds of vetting, including enhanced checks for armed roles, at three different forces, but three alleged incidents of indecent exposure in 2015 and in February this year were not fully investigated.

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Following Couzens’ sentencing of life in prison for kidnapping and murdering Everard in March 2021, former Met Police Chief Parm Sandhu told Talk Radio: “This man was a monster in uniform and vetting failed. Why not take action now? There’s a canteen culture of not pursuing these matters.”

In 2019, police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), gave all forces a deadline of July 2020 to retrospectively vet all their officers and staff to 2006 national guidelines, no matter how long they have been serving.

However, figures obtained by the BBC’s File on 4 programme show more than a quarter of police forces have still not met this deadline.

HMICFRS says it is “reviewing whether previous recommendations on vetting have been implemented”.

Former Inspector of Constabulary, Zoe Billingham, called the figures “deeply disappointing,” telling File on 4: “We know that policing attracts predators, a very tiny number, so of all of the professions and all public services, policing really does have to have the state of the art tightest vetting processes and procedures in place.”

There has been an increased focus on police vetting after police officer Wayne Couzens was charged with murdering Sarah Everard in October 2021
There has been an increased focus on police vetting after police officer Wayne Couzens was charged with murdering Sarah Everard in October 2021

Following Counzen’s conviction, the Metropolitan Police released a written statement that read: “We only want the best of the best in the Met and we will always act when our employees fall below the standards we and the public expect and erode the trust we depend upon. 

 “All officers must and will now expect to work harder to gain the confidence of the public and be understanding and tolerant of reasonable questioning of their actions and identity as they go about their duty to protect Londoners.”

However, campaigners and women’s charities have called for “an immediate and unequivocal commitment” to violence against women and girls that should be treated as “an absolute priority” for the government, on the same level as terrorism.

“Police: to make women feel safer we’ll put more police in the streets and in night clubs.

Also police: let’s not bother vetting officers correctly eh? What could go wrong?” wrote one Twitter user in response to the data.

You can listen to File on 4: Who’s policing the police? on Radio 4 on Tuesday 15th November at 20:00 BST, and then afterwards on BBC Sounds.

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