It was reported earlier this year that there have been nearly 1,500 claims made concerning sexual abuse committed by police officers across the country. These claims cover 33 police forces, over a period between 2012 and 2018 (10 forces didn't choose to provide any information).
Another recent survey found that 12% of Unison members, working as civilian police staff, had experienced inappropriate touching, kissing and groping by officers.
Although both reports are shocking enough as they stand, there are likely to have been many more cases that have gone completely unreported, not included in these figures.
These claims include some which involve very serious crimes indeed. For example, 27 officers are said to have been dismissed for actions relating to child porn, grooming, and rape of children.
Numerous officers are said to have taken advantage of vulnerable women, including domestic abuse survivors and rape victims, as well as engaging in sexual relationships with these victims. This is nothing new: as we now know, undercover officers have been ‘legally’ manipulating women into relationships for decades whilst infiltrating activist groups.
These two reports therefore raise serious concerns about the culture within organisations that are supposed to be protecting us.
Of the 1,500 claims listed, 371 were upheld and 197 officers were either sacked or resigned as a result. Over one third of these complaints were made against the Met. But, of these complaints, only 119 were upheld, leading in turn to 63 ‘dismissals’.
Sexual harassment and abuse claims raised internally within the police force had a 40% rate of being upheld. By comparison, only 9% of claims were upheld in claims made by the public.
As is evident from the history of officers avoiding punishment in clear cases of police violence, it is very difficult for ordinary people to get any justice where police officers are involved, however damning the evidence might be.
Through the decades, a culture of impunity has seemingly existed inside the police. This applies not just to the ranks of the police, but also to the rich and powerful establishment they work so hard to defend.
Why, for example, did the police at the time not pursue the various serious allegations of abuse (and worse) repeatedly made in the 1970s onwards against assorted establishment figures, such as Jimmy Saville? Action was only taken when it was too late, when most of those named were long gone.
The real reason is that the police did not care about the victims. They did not care because the victims were vulnerable working-class men, women, and children. The perpetrators, on the other side, were all embedded in and protected by the establishment, from the very top down. The victims were the forgotten and dispossessed sections of society - precisely the people who did not have the power to stand up to these predators.
The Tory media passed off these abuses as ‘historic’. They claim that things were ‘different’ back then – people apparently just didn’t talk about things like that back in the 1970s and ‘80s.
But what has really changed? The same sort of rich and well-connected types are still in power. And these ladies and gentlemen will always protect their own. How many police officers will risk their careers to even investigate allegations against these establishment figures?
All this is not historical - it is very much current. Every police scandal over the years – Hillsborough, Orgreave, Operation Yewtree, phone hacking, police infiltration of campaigns, etc. – shows that this is not just the result of a few ‘bad apples’. The British state is completely tainted and implicated in all of them.
The establishment’s particular hostility towards trade unionists, strikers, campaigners and others fighting for a better future remains clear to all. Remember, after all, how the working class used to be called the ‘criminal’ classes?
Within such a mindset, police abuses will always fester. These two reports just confirm that things have not changed at all since the ‘bad old days’ of a few decades ago.
Although the police talk about how they have now instituted measures to stop this abuse, such steps will never solve the problem. As long as we live in a system based on inequality and exploitation, then there will always be an unequal distribution of power.
The police force is by its nature an undemocratic body, handpicked by the capitalist state to be its faithful servants in the defence of property and privilege. They do not even bother to investigate ‘petty’ crimes in working-class areas - unless it creates unwelcome publicity, or if arrests can be made quickly and easily to boost figures.
Under capitalism, the individual abuses reported will continue, as will the continued defence of the establishment by the police - all at our expense.
The only way to fully resolve this problem is with a socialist transformation of society: to do away with the repressive police force altogether, and establish a system where those protecting the community are representative of it and accountable to it.