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  • Writer's pictureFarah Benis

Authority, Impunity, and Reform: Thoughts on the UK’s Policing Culture


"stripped and left topless in my cell, I was drugged and sexually assaulted by greater Manchester police"
Headlines from UK Media on criminal misconduct from UK police

The case of Zayna Iman (who has waived her right to anonymity) serves as a stark illustration of a systemic issue within our policing institutions. Her story - one of abuse, ambiguity, and alleged cover-up - compels us to ask uncomfortable questions about power, trust, and authority.


Zayna is an 'imperfect' victim, a term society all too readily assigns to those who don't fit a particular mould. She is open about being a former sex worker, with a history of cocaine use and having had previous encounters with the police. As such Zayna might not fit the stereotypical image of a victim 'deserving' of public sympathy. However, it is these very characteristics that potentially make her a 'perfect' victim for those seeking to exploit their positions of power - easy to target and far simpler to discredit - something she is all too familiar with.


In the early hours of 5th February 2021, police forcefully entered Zayna's home, following up a welfare callout. An encounter that should have prioritised care and safety quickly escalated and Zayna was arrested. Over the next 40 hours, she was detained at a police station.


From this ordeal, over three hours of CCTV footage mysteriously remain unaccounted for. This missing evidence raises serious concerns, given that Zayna has made allegations of sexual assault against an officer during her detention, allegations that are supported by her medical records showing evidence of sexual injuries.


The gravity of Zayna's allegations is further underscored by comments from former GMP chief superintendent, Martin Harding, who, after reviewing the available footage and noting glaring inconsistencies with the custody log, stated, "I believe she was raped. I believe she was raped by an officer and I believe the organisation is covering it up." However, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has yet to explain the missing footage, stating there is currently no evidence to suggest any employees have misconducted themselves or committed a criminal offence.


This disconnect between Zayna's harrowing account and GMP's response adds a layer of complexity to the broader crisis unfolding within our policing institutions. Zayna's case is but one among many, prompting us to grapple with a pressing question: why is this happening within our institutions of power? Why do these so called bastions of public trust and security seem to attract and protect individuals capable of such abuse?


The recent cases of David Carrick, Wayne Couzens, Stephen Hardy, and many more raise disturbing questions about the underlying dynamics within our police forces: what elements of police culture enable or even attract individuals predisposed to such heinous acts? And why do these environments seem to foster, rather than curb, such behaviour?


Adding on the recent events, we can't overlook the startling statistics emerging from the United Kingdom. Reports indicate that two to three criminal cases against police officers are anticipated to reach court every week in the coming months, according to the Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley. These criminal cases represent a mix of dishonesty, violence, and particularly violence against women and girls.


The gravity of these allegations is further underlined by a sweeping review of police conduct. In the wake of these convictions, around 1,000 previous cases involving Metropolitan Police officers and staff accused of sexual offences or domestic violence are currently under review. This re-examination is being undertaken to ensure all cases were handled correctly and with due process.


This profound development is a clear indicator of the urgent necessity for reforms within our policing institutions. The need to thoroughly examine and rectify past oversights can't be understated. It is not just about making amends for past transgressions but also about rebuilding the eroded public faith and demonstrating the commitment of our policing institutions towards the public.


When I established my company, my motivation was rooted in personal experience of power imbalance and the injustice of sexual harassment going unchallenged. This culture of impunity led me to envision an organisation where accountability and respect are core values. Yet, even within this ethos, I was acutely aware of the potential for those in positions of authority to misuse their power, and one of my biggest fears was men under my employ doing so. As such, I have worked hard to create a culture of accountability – one that stands firmly against abuses of power and has zero tolerance for misconduct. From our recruitment strategies to our training programmes, open-door policies, and regular audits, every aspect of our operations is geared towards fostering an environment of respect, integrity, and accountability.


The task of challenging deep-seated power abuse extends far beyond individual companies or organisations. It is a societal challenge, requiring collective commitment and action. Revelations about the Metropolitan Police force and GMP highlight the urgent need for systemic reform across all our policing institutions.


As we confront these pressing issues, it is crucial to view them not merely as the failings of individuals, but as a reflection of systemic flaws within our society. Our collective goal must be to restore trust in our policing institutions and foster a society where power serves the people rather than oppresses them. This journey towards accountability, transparency, and justice may be challenging, but each step forward brings us closer to the society we aspire to be – one underpinned by respect, equality, and dignity for all.


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There will be a peaceful demonstration in support of Zayna this Thursday 3rd August 2023 at 6pm outside the Home Office in London.

#JusticeforZayna

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