'Shout for help, flag down a car, or call 999' if you feel in danger when stopped by officer, says Lancashire police in wake of Sarah Everard murder
Lancashire police says people should 'shout for another member of the public, flag down a car, or even call 999' if they feel in danger when confronted by a lone officer, after it emerged that murderer Wayne Couzens abused his police status to falsely arrest Sarah Everard before killing her.
Couzens, 48, was given a whole life sentence yesterday for the kidnap, rape and murder of Miss Everard, 33, on the night of March 3 2021.
The Old Bailey heard how Couzens, a serving Metropolitan police officer at the time, used his warrant card to falsely arrest Miss Everard, citing Covid-19 laws, as she walked home from a friend's house in Clapham. He handcuffed her and drove her to a secluded woodland in Ashford, Kent, before raping her and strangling her with his police belt.
The murder of Miss Everard sent shockwaves across the country, as did subsequent allegations of police violence at a memorial service at Clapham Common shortly after her death. The judge said the case had 'eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales.'
Several regional police forces have now issued statements about what members of the public should do if they feel at risk when confronted by a police officer.
A Lancashire police spokesman said: "Our thoughts first and foremost are with the family and friends of Sarah Everard. The pain and suffering they must have gone through is impossible to comprehend.
"Policing across the UK has been rocked by this appalling tragedy and the thought that a serving officer abused his position in this way is sickening.
"The monstrous actions of Wayne Couzens are a terrible abuse of power and do not represent policing. Police officers and staff who want to protect the public are sickened by this man’s crimes. He has betrayed everything we stand for.
"We understand how deeply concerning his actions are and the desire to know how to verify an officers’ identity.
"Police officers always carry identification and can always be asked for verification. They are used to providing that reassurance.
"It would be extremely unusual for an officer in plain clothes to be working alone. If they are, they should be calling for assistance with other officers arriving very soon. This is standard practice.
"In light of the actions of Wayne Couzens it is right that police officers expect and are tolerant of those who wish to be further reassured. They will want to explain and reassure who they are, what they are doing and why.
"If people still feel things are not quite right or you are in imminent danger you must seek assistance, if that means shouting out to another member of the public, flagging a car down or even dialing 999 then do that.
"We will continue to work harder with every part of the justice system and the communities we serve to rebuild trust and make our streets as safe as possible for women and girls."
The Metropolitan police announced to step up 'reassurance patrols', with an extra 650 officers patrolling busy public areas in London.
It also vowed treat indecent exposure allegations more seriously after it emerged that Couzens had been reported for the crime, and was nicknamed 'the rapist' by colleagues.
Scotland Yard admitted the case was part of a "much bigger and troubling picture".
More than 750 Metropolitan police officers and staff have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the past 11 years. However, just 83 of these were sacked.