Avon and Somerset Police stress their commitment to tackling violence against women and girls

The Deputy Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police Nikki Watson says she is “dismayed and outraged” at the damage caused to the public’s trust in police officers following the murder of Sarah Everard.

DCC Watson has issued a statement following the sentencing of Sarah’s killer Wayne Couzens, who was a Metropolitan Police firearms officer who used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch her off a London street.

DCC Watson said: “Firstly, the thoughts of all officers and staff at Avon and Somerset Police are very much with Sarah Everard’s loved ones at this truly horrific time.

“I am both dismayed and outraged by the damage caused to the public’s trust and confidence in police by the sickening crimes of a man, who took an oath to serve and protect the public.

“His grotesque abuse of power single-handedly undermines the authority and legitimacy of dedicated and committed officers across the country. His abhorrent actions in no way represent policing.

“I understand the concern this terrible crime has caused and that we, as police officers who care so passionately about protecting our communities, need to do everything we can to reassure them that we are here for them.

“In Avon and Somerset, we’re wholly committed to protecting the vulnerable and targeting the perpetrators. Tackling violence against women and girls will always be a priority for us and we have been undertaking a significant amount of work in the last few years to improve areas that disproportionately affect women. For example, we recently introduced a new evidence-based approach, which aims to transform the way police respond to rape and serious sexual offences by taking a perpetrator-focused approach, disrupting repeat offenders, improving victim support and engagement, providing specialised training to officers and using data more effectively.

“We’re working with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) in supporting the national violence against women and girls strategy and liaising with our local stakeholders to listen to the women in our communities in order to improve how we tackle violence against women. We’re also working closely with our partners to play our part in making public spaces safer for women, including public streets and public transport.

“We’re dedicated towards taking a preventative approach to these issues, tightening our grip on offenders and creating safer communities for women.”

She said police officers always carry identification, whether in uniform or plain clothes, and can always be asked for verification: “They are used to providing that reassurance.”

Officers and staff have been reminded of the need to be tolerant with those who wish to be further reassured and to do everything they reasonably can to verify their credentials and the reason for the interaction, DCC Watson continued.

“It is not unusual for officers to operate alone, but anyone who is stopped by a single officer should always expect to see officers arrive very quickly afterwards.

“If this doesn’t happen, or if someone remains concerned, then they should seek further assistance. Genuine police officers who are acting legitimately will understand.

“If at any time someone feels threatened, they should draw attention to themselves in the best way possible – this could be by shouting out, running into a house or business, flagging down a motorist or if possible, by calling 999.”

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