British police officers on patrol.
Plans to send plainclothes to British nightclubs and improve public lighting to increase women’s safety in the aftermath of a high-profile murder case were criticized by police experts and human rights activists on Tuesday as ‘laughable’.
The government announced the measures Monday as the death of Sarah Everard, 33, and police handling of a memorial vigil where they grappled with mourners fueled a national debate about women’s safety and criticism of the police.
Critics said much broader measures were needed to address the root causes of gender-based violence in society and restore broken trust between women and police forces.
“Undercover cops in bars are ridiculous,” said Susannah Fish, the former Nottinghamshire Police Chief, who described the move as “glaring public relations without substance”.
“Sarah Everard hadn’t been to a bar and was just walking home – just like thousands of women who have been victims of harassment, sexual assault, verbal abuse while in public places, and will be in the future.”
A spokesman for the Home Office, the UK Home Office, was not immediately available for comment.
The Board of Chiefs of Police said it was working with the government to understand the details of the proposals.
Everard, a marketing manager, disappeared March 3 while walking home from a friend’s house. Her body was later found in forests about 50 miles away in South East England.
London police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with kidnapping and murder.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new measures to strengthen police presence in nighttime bars and clubs and improve the security of public spaces with measures such as better lighting and CCTV would provide women with “more reassurance.”
But they focus on the “ symptom ” rather than “ the cure ” of societal norms that normalize men’s violence against women, said Deniz Ugur, deputy director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.
“I can’t understand why a woman would trust it,” added Nikki, a member of Sisters Uncut, a feminist direct-action group that clashed with police during the London vigil, which refused to give her full name due to safety concerns.
“It is incredibly worrying that someone would place additional powers in the hands of the police at this point, because it is very clear that they cannot be charged with protecting women and they cannot be trusted.”
Women’s rights activists and experts called for action, including compulsory school education about sexual consent, campaigns to tackle the myths about rape, more money for women’s aid organizations, and turning misogyny into a hate crime.
More work is also needed to address biased attitudes toward sexual harassment and abuse in some sections of the police force, said Loretta Trickett, an associate professor at Nottingham Law School who has worked on issues such as misogyny and police.
“Just bringing in more streetlights and getting more police officers in nightclubs won’t change the culture in society and it won’t change the culture we see in some members of the police force,” she said.