Women have been advised to wave down a bus or shout out to passers-by if they are stopped by a police officer they do not trust.
The Metropolitan Police made a string of suggestions on what people could do if they are approached by an officer but have concerns they are not acting legitimately as it set out a series of measures it was taking in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.
It was suggested people should ask where the officer’s colleagues are; where they have come from; why they are there; and exactly why they are stopping or talking to them.
Anyone could verify the police officer by asking to hear their radio operator or asking to speak to the radio operator themselves, the force said, before suggesting those with concerns could shout out to a passer-by, run into a house, knock on a door, wave a bus down, or call 999.
The Met stressed the advice was given for specific, and rare, scenarios people might find themselves in.
The force said: “It is unusual for a single plain clothes police officer to engage with anyone in London. If that does happen, and it may do for various reasons, in instances where the officer is seeking to arrest you, you should then expect to see other officers arrive shortly afterwards.
“However, if that doesn’t happen and you do find yourself in an interaction with a sole police officer and you are on your own, it is entirely reasonable for you to seek further reassurance of that officer’s identity and intentions.”
It added: “If after all of that you feel in real and imminent danger and you do not believe the officer is who they say they are, for whatever reason, then I would say you must seek assistance – shouting out to a passer-by, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or if you are in the position to do so, calling 999.”
The advice came as the Met said it would deploy 650 new officers into busy public places and increase patrols to do more to protect women and girls and help them feel safe.
The force also promised to “step up” patrols in areas identified as “hotspot” locations for violence and harassment, and plain clothes officers will now work in pairs where possible.
Scotland Yard police chiefs promised to publish a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls, outlining how it will prioritise action against sexual and violent predatory offenders.
This is set to accompany a Predatory Offender Unit which, since last November, has resulted in the arrests of more than 2,000 suspects for domestic abuse, sex offences, and child abuse.
‘Not the answer’
The guidance prompted human rights group Liberty to call for police powers to be rolled back, saying: “Knowing your rights and knowing what the limits of police powers (are) can be helpful, but only to a point. There must be an acknowledgement of how disempowered we all can be when faced with broad and unaccountable police powers.
“Advising people to run away from police if they are uncomfortable or to wave down a bus is not the answer.”
Ronald Winch, a former senior investigating officer in major and complex crime who worked in a number of roles at the Met and at West Midlands Police and now teaches policing at Birmingham City University, said: “My view is that the advice is legitimate and responsible.
“However, we must remember that at the heart of this debate is the sheer cruelty and breach of trust, centred around the premeditated murder of a young woman.
“More work and evidence-based practice must be invested in the prevention of violence against women and girls – significantly domestic violence and abuse.
“Officers must be patient and professional in providing additional explanations when using police powers with respect to women and girls who may feel nervous about interactions with the police.”
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