Senior officers from all 43 police forces in England and Wales have held a high-level meeting to discuss the problem of police officers who sexually assault or make inappropriate sexual advances on members of the public. Many of those attacked are themselves already victims of crime.
Figures from 38 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, obtained by The Guardian, show that 169 police officers and support staff are under criminal or disciplinary investigation for sexual offences.
The problem of predatory sexual behaviour was at the top of the agenda at the meeting in Chester.
The majority of the allegations have been made against officers or police community support officers (PCSOs), with offences cited including rape, voyeurism, sexual assaults, accessing indecent images and indecent acts with a child.
Evidence suggests that victims chosen by police officers were often vulnerable, including many women reporting domestic violence, rape or sexual assault, and those with drug or alcohol addictions.
Only 31 of the cases are being dealt with by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This has lead to concerns among campaigners that victims will understandably be 'anxious' that many cases are looked into by the police forces themselves.
A source within the police service told the newspaper, “There are some forces up and down the country who, while they might not be sweeping it under the carpet, are being less than open about what is going on.”
Five forces did not disclose figures, including Leicestershire Police, who claimed that to do so would prejudice any ongoing investigations.
Detective Superintendent Jackie Alexander, head of the professional standards unit of Nottinghamshire police, where 15 officers and staff are bering investigated, told the paper: “We in the police service need to be concerned. This happens in other professions, the church and in teaching, for example, but we in the police have the biggest obligation.”
The Metropolitan police, Britain's largest force, has set up an internal inquiry to investigate 42 cases of sexually predatory officers, following advice from the Nottinghamshire force, who have acted robustly against the offences.