MPS to change how lone officers identify themselves to lone women

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has launched a live video calling service to enable lone officers in plain clothes to verify their identity.

Oct 20, 2021
By Tony Thompson

The force said that from today (October 20), lone plain clothed officers, including those reacting to incidents while off-duty, will proactively provide verification of their identity and purpose to any lone woman they need to engage with using a video call to a uniformed supervisor in one of our police operations rooms. This is in addition to showing their warrant card.

A statement released by the force noted that the majority of police officers patrol in uniform and in close proximity to other colleagues, but there are limited occasions where a lone plain clothed officer may need to engage with the public.

The uniformed supervisor in the control room will conduct the necessary checks and provide reassurance that the officer is who they say they are and that they are acting appropriately. They will also ensure the encounter is properly recorded.

The video call will be made using the officer’s mobile device, but on the rare occasion they do not have their device, such as when they are off duty, the officer will provide the woman with the telephone number to visually call the operations room directly.

All local operations rooms have been equipped with a dedicated mobile device to make and receive these calls that utilise a range of popular video calling services, including FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and Google Duo.

Concerned members of the public can also call 999 directly, to ask for verification of an officer’s identification and reassurance from the police control room if they prefer this route – or if video calling is not available for any reason.

The MPS has consulted widely with key partners working to tackle violence against women and girls on this process in order to ensure it provides the reassurance that is needed.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, Frontline Policing, said: “It is very unusual for a lone plain-clothed officer to engage with a lone woman. It is simply not how we usually operate but there are some rare circumstances where this could happen and we want to give all the reassurance we can.

“We know we need to regain women’s trust and we fully accept that the onus is on us to verify we are who we say we are and that we are acting appropriately – that’s why we’ve introduced this system.

“We hope that being able to see and speak to a uniformed colleague in what will very visibly be a police operations room, and know that there is a proper police record of the encounter, will provide the reassurance that we understand is necessary.”

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