Written by By Amanda Burns, CNN
It’s a growing problem in much of the developed world, but here in the U.K., the problem is only just beginning to emerge.
Throughout 2017, at least seven women in the U.K. came forward with allegations of sexual harassment or assault at the hands of law enforcement members.
That number is expected to rise. Some 25 years ago, the British government set up the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to cope with complaints of police misconduct. However, this body is understaffed, and volunteers aren’t paid. So while the number of complaints of inappropriate behavior are a trickle compared to other European countries, for those still brave enough to speak up, the experience is fraught with humiliation and anxiety.
Luckily, not all police officers are saviours. Some of the more persistent offenders tend to be those, themselves, well known to victims.
Last September, police in the west Midlands area of England launched an investigation into allegations of historical sexual abuse dating back more than 30 years by senior officers in the region.
Some were former police chiefs, the youngest being 51. Three men, who could all have faced life sentences had they been found guilty, were charged. One of the men pleaded guilty to indecent assault. The outcome of the investigation remains unclear.
The current investigation into inappropriate behavior by a senior police officer is also ongoing.
The number of reported offenses involving women across the U.K. was more than 53,000 last year, according to BBC’s crime statistics database, 22% higher than in 2015. There are around 40,000 police forces in the country, of which more than 10,000 are based in England and Wales.
“We believe there could be further reports of sexual abuse involving police officers, either directly or indirectly, but our inquiries are ongoing,” said Gillian Tett, the IPCC’s head of policy, protection and transparency, in a statement.
The IPCC works closely with forces in individual cases to establish if there is a “reasonable prospect of conviction.”
If a complaint is found to be credible, the IPCC will draft a joint report with the force concerned, which will be published publicly. The resulting IPCC report will identify any further potential responsibilities for the constable concerned.