Police officers have joined an all-female running club as part of Scotland Yard’s efforts to ensure women feel safe in public spaces.
It comes after the revelation of racist and sexist messages sent by Metropolitan Police officers, described by a female inspector during Friday morning’s jog as “extremely disappointing”.
Inspector Sarah Dobinson was among the officers who joined the runners in Merton, south-west London, for a muddy 8km run.
She said the idea is “very simple”, with female joggers – whether they live, work or visit the city – pair up with a female officer through a “buddy system”, which gives them will also provide an opportunity to “really understand their experiences”. and “any concern”.
The race took place the same week that a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct revealed highly offensive language used on WhatsApp and in Facebook chats by officers from a now-disbanded Westminster-based squad, mostly at Charing Cross Police Station.
On Tuesday, the watchdog took the unusual step of publishing the posts in full, although many are too offensive to be printed as part of mainstream news coverage, as it said it was important let the public see them.
The messages exchanged included multiple references to sexual violence, including “I would rape you with pleasure” and “If I were single, I would chloroform you with pleasure”.
In other conversations, one officer bragged about hitting his girlfriend and told a colleague, “It makes them like you more,” while another bragged about having slept at several times with a prostitute he had met at work.
An officer has been branded a ‘mcrapey raperson’ in WhatsApp messages over rumors he took a woman to the police station to have sex with her.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick the messages reveal a ‘culture of racism, homophobia, bullying and misogyny’ within the force that she must “hunt”.
Asked about the headlines about Met officers this week, Ms Dobinson said they were “hugely disappointing”.
“We are police officers, but we are also members of the community,” she said, adding that the officers were “shocked and saddened by everything that has happened in recent weeks.”
She said, “We’re people, so yeah, we take it personally.”
Saying officers ‘realize what’s going on’, Ms Dobinson continued: ‘We now have many forums to report any wrongdoing, any concerns, which can be anonymous through different channels.
“So I think that’s the positive message for the future – that improvements are being made.”
Caroline Dunleavy, who leads the Common Runners group, said joggers saw female officers ‘for themselves, really, rather than their role’ in the force, but said it was also interesting to learn about their job.
She said she thought the link was an “interesting” and “great” initiative, part of the Met’s “walk and talk” program, where women joined officers on foot patrol to share their experiences and concerns regarding safety in public places.
What started as 25 neighborhood officers joining local women in south London has resulted in the scheme being rolled out across the capital, the Met said.