Northumbria Police bosses defend forces vetting system as fallout continues over Sarah Everard case
North East police bosses have backed their force’s vetting of officers, after the fallout of Sarah Everard’s murder.
Home secretary Priti Patel announced this week that an inquiry would be held into how Wayne Couzens was allowed to continue serving as a Met Police officer despite concerns about his behaviour before he kidnapped, raped, and killed the 33-year-old former Durham University student.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness told councillors at a meeting she had been “horrified” by the murder and that the Government ministers “fail to understand the size of the problem”.
Asked about the strength of Northumbria’s own vetting process for officers, the Labour PCC defended the procedures and said she was given “real hope” by the “hundreds” of new recruits motivated to join “to solve this exact problem”.
She was speaking at a Newcastle City Council meeting on Wednesday, October 6.
Chief constable Winton Keenen called Ms Everard’s murder a “horrendous crime by a rogue officer” and said “we must do all we can to prevent it happening again”.
Ms McGuinness said “I have confidence in Northumbria Police. Myself and the chief discuss this all the time: what is the vetting procedure, how is it working, where are people falling down on vetting, what is the training officers receive, how is that going, how is it detected if there is something wrong?
“This is something that is picked up in Northumbria and, crucially, when something is going wrong or is amiss with a colleague then it is their colleagues who bring it to our attention. It is important that it remains an environment where people feel able to do that.”
The PCC recently announced an £800,000 package to improve public safety in parks and on public transport, including through more CCTV and lighting as well as a new app where people can report places they feel unsafe.
However, the police chief said the Government-funded programme was “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we need to bring about real change”.
Mr Keenen said that Northumbria Police had the highest levels of public confidence of any force in the country, but that he did “recognise the culture in policing” he had experienced during a 37-year career.
He also pledged that he would sack any officer found to be using their position “for sexual or any coercive control”.
He added: “We have really robust procedures in Northumbria Police. I know you have sought a zero per cent tolerance with nobody getting through [if any issues are found during vetting], we sometimes cannot equate for things happening – that is the reality of the world.
“But I assure you we already, many years ago, recognised the importance of vetting. It is something we pay very close attention towards and we have already invested in this area.
“We will be seeing, I’m sure, some national guidance coming out from the centre on the back of the Sarah Everard case and some of the lessons learned from that.”