A video of a drug swabbing operation uploaded to the Metropolitan police’s official Twitter account has been met with criticism after the force claimed it was carried out as part of an initiative to keep women safe.
The Metropolitan police is facing backlash online after posts uploaded to its official Twitter account revealed that drug swabbing operations were being carried out in London as part of a “week of action” to promote women’s safety.
The posts – which consisted of a video alongside a statement – said that the operations took place in areas “which have seen a spike of in incidents where women and girls have been made to feel unsafe or have been victims of crime”.
A statement uploaded by the force said this was because there is an “inextricable link between Class A drugs and serious crime and violence on the streets of London”.
But Twitter users weren’t convinced – with many criticising the force for using women’s safety as a guise to crackdown on drug use (and arrest a woman in the process), rather than tackling the real reason why women feel so unsafe on the streets of London: male violence, and the lack of action being taken to address it.
“‘Supporting women’s safety’ – how?” read one of the tweets. “Is this some pre-crime thing? I’m pretty sure there is enough real actual crime being reported. That has already happened. That you should investigate.”
“It’s absolute nonsense that drug swabs were carried out by the Met police to protect women from violence,” read another by solicitor Emily-Jade Defriend. “I think this pretence is an insult to those campaigning for better protection for women and girls.”
And a third response added: “This is a step-by-step tutorial of how to do the absolute most while actually doing the absolute least to protect women.”
Other users referenced the shocking figures revealed last year that showed that 160 Met police officers had been accused of sexual misconduct in 2019 and 2020 – and called on the force to address the issues in its own ranks.
“If the Met police’s idea of keeping me safe is to increase police powers for random searches for unrelated possession and use whilst not investigating the sexual assault in its own ranks, I don’t want the Met police trying to keep me safe,” read one comment.
“Maybe investigate your own officers that have sexual allegations against them in order to provide women with safety!?” another added. “This drug testing exercise is absolutely pointless and a waste of time and resources, and I don’t understand how it relates to women’s safety?”
The backlash comes after a year in which the UK police has come under increased scrutiny for its record on women’s safety, both when it comes to securing convictions for crimes that disproportionately affect women (such as rape and domestic abuse) and for contributing to the issue.
From the case of 33-year-old Sarah Everard – who was murdered by a serving Metropolitan police officer – to the officers who took pictures of the dead bodies of sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the events of the last 12 months have exposed institutional issues and decimated women’s faith in the police.
And if one thing’s for sure, it’s that this latest move has done nothing to reassure women that the police know what it’ll take to do better.
In a statement responding to the number of police officers who had been accused of sexual misconduct, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan police said: “While the allegations involve a small percentage of staff, we acknowledge the impact any alleged offence will have on those involved, and will continue to take all allegations made against staff extremely seriously. There is no place for behaviour of this nature within the organisation.
“Where standards are proven to have fallen below what is expected, we take appropriate action to ensure both accountability and that lessons are learnt from each case. Where officers are convicted of a crime, they will also face internal misconduct proceedings.
“Matters such as these are investigated by the Directorate of Professional Standards with referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct as appropriate, which may independently investigate the allegations.”
With the support of more than 60 experts and public figures, Stylist is calling on the government to launch a long-term public awareness campaign about male violence against women – aimed directly at men. Find out more about our call for #AFearlessFuture.
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