All serving police officers accused of domestic or sexual abuse should face misconduct hearings as well as criminal investigations, according to Louisa Rolfe, the lead on domestic abuse in England and Wales for the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
She was commenting after it emerged 144 women have come forward to claim domestic abuse, rape or sexual assault by their police officer ex-partners following a super-complaint the Centre for Women’s Justice lodged last year.
The legal charity argues reports made against serving officers were dropped, insufficiently investigated or ignored.
Unless a criminal investigation had concluded there was no case to answer, officers should be formally investigated internally for misconduct even if there was not strong enough evidence for a criminal trial, Rolfe was reported as saying by the Guardian newspaper.
If a report of abuse is made against a serving officer, forces must ensure there is no conflict of interest and investigators have no connection with the perpetrator, she said.
Rolfe urged victims to report abuse. “If you don’t have the confidence to report it to your local police force please seek support from one of the brilliant domestic abuse charities – they will quite appropriately be very demanding on your behalf,” she added.
Former Nottinghamshire chief constable Sue Fish said: “Policing and police leaders need to face up to the fact this isn’t rare. If I hear it described as rare, or an isolated incident, it makes me want to scream.”
An “incredibly defensive” culture within the police and a reluctance in the Crown Prosecution Service to charge officers made investigating allegations problematic, she added.
Refuge’s CEO Ruth Davison said: “The police urgently need to get their own house in order before they will ever instil the confidence women who experience domestic abuse need to bravely make contact with the police.”