Former police commander Brian Paddick. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)
Former police chief Brian Paddick was once told that it’s fine to be gay, to be a woman or to be Black in the police force – as long as you act like a straight white man.
Paddick became the most senior gay police officer in the UK during his stint with the Met Police – but discriminatory attitudes meant that his position wasn’t always easy.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Paddick said that there needs to be a “cultural change” within the Metropolitan Police – and within the policing more broadly – following the brutal murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer in March.
Paddick, now a Liberal Democrat peer, said there is “widespread sexism in the force” and that the police needs leaders who will acknowledge and act on prejudice and discriminatory attitudes.
Reflecting on his own experience in the Met Police, Paddick said: “It was interesting, when I was in the police I was told it was OK to be a woman, or to be gay, or to be Black, provided you behaved like a straight white man.”
He continued: “We need more women leaders, but more importantly we need police leaders who recognise the problems with prejudice in the police service, whether it’s sexism or racism or other forms of prejudice, who are prepared to acknowledge that these problems exist and who are prepared to do something about them. At the moment all we get is denial.”
Paddick’s comments came just 24 hours after police officer Wayne Couzens was given a whole life sentence – the UK’s most severe punishment – for the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
Couzens abducted Everard in a false arrest in March, telling her she had breached COVID-19 regulations. He subsequently raped and murdered her and dumped her burned body in a woodland in Kent.
The murder has ignited a discussion about the safety of women and other marginalised groups, and the state of the Met Police.
Brian Paddick thinks the ‘perception’ of policing needs to change
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Paddick said: “The fact is women are safe with the overwhelming majority of police officers but it’s the perception that needs to be addressed.
“That requires short term and longer term solutions. A third of police constables nationally are now women and that needs to be improved, obviously.”
Paddick went on to suggest that male officers should carry out their patrols alongside a female police officer to provide “visible reassurance” to women.
“We need to get to a situation where women victims tell other women that they were treated well by the police so that it changes the perception amongst women,” Paddick said.
“It is the perception that needs to be addressed, not necessarily the reality.”
Paddick joined the Metropolitan Police in 1976 and retired in 2007 as deputy assistant commissioner. He subsequently entered politics, running for London mayor as a Lib Dem in 2008 and 2012. He is now a life peer and the party’s spokesperson on home affairs in the House of Lords.