Following the whole life sentence for the murder of Sarah Everard of ex-police officer Wayne Couzens, Sussex Assistant Chief Constable Jayne Dando, Lead for Local Policing, said the following:

“We have all been left shocked and disturbed by the actions of ex-police officer Wayne Couzens.

“First and foremost, our thoughts remain with the courageous family of Sarah Everard, whose happy life has so tragically been cut short.

“Couzens is a vile criminal and his actions horrific. He does not reflect the values of the police service, nor the majority of police officers and staff, who dedicate their lives to helping and protecting the public, including women and girls.

“However, we absolutely recognise and accept that the details of this case will have a profound impact on public trust and confidence in the police, particularly with women.

“We are committed to rebuilding trust with those affected in our communities and will continue to improve our services, working with partners, to prevent and tackle violence against women and girls and to target the perpetrators.

“We have a strong partnership of agencies and charities in Sussex working together on this and to address the root causes of gender inequality, which cannot be addressed by police alone.

“Our commitment is reflected in a range of initiatives, some of which have been recognised as national best practice.

“These include stalking and domestic abuse perpetrator programmes, introduction of new enhanced safeguarding processes for victims, a new specialist Local Resolution Team which is trained in and deals specifically with DA cases, with the ability connect with victims via video appointments and the introduction of Sexual Offences Investigations Teams, officers specially trained to support victims of rape and serious sexual assault.

“We have also successfully embedded the use of Stalking Protection Orders, an area in which the force is leading nationally.

“We have carried out extensive analysis to establish where public place sexual violence occurs and this informs our patrol plans, particularly around the night-time economy. We run specific operations at times we know there is an increased risk of domestic abuse and have well established plans for the easing of lockdown which will see more officers working with partners to provide safeguarding to victims of domestic abuse.

“Throughout the pandemic we continued to be visible in our communities. This has included physical presence at supermarkets to ensure those who are suffering violence and abuse have an ability to talk to officers safely. Sussex Police has also supported and promoted the Ask Ani initiative.

“Policing is a reflection of the society we serve, we are committed to eradicating misogyny and inequality and playing our part in addressing these societal issues.

“Sussex Police has a long history of campaigning for gender equality. With Surrey, we are the only police forces in the world to be named United Nations HeforShe Thematic Champions where we made specific public commitments to address gender inequality and to address violence against women and girls. We have led this work nationally and in 2019 enrolled the support of every UK police force in this global solidarity movement.

“Of course, there is always more we can do and will seek to continuously improve our services, the prevention and detection of offences and outcomes for victims.”

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner said; “Following the events of recent days, I know that Sussex Police officers and staff are totally committed to ensuring that the public have complete confidence and trust in their local police force to protect and help them.

“Together with Sussex Police, my office is working on projects to tackle male violence against women and girls and I hope this work will go some way towards restoring their perception of safety on the streets of Sussex.”

Advice on interacting with the police if you are concerned:

We fully understand that some members of the public may be concerned and require more reassurance. Our frontline officers and staff want to do all they can to rebuild that trust and will be understanding to an increased level of challenge and scrutiny in their interactions.

It would be extremely unusual for an officer in plain clothes to be working alone when responding to an emergency. If they are, they should be calling for assistance with other officers arriving very soon. This is standard practice.

Detectives and investigators will ordinarily be operating in plain clothes but will always carry police identification.

If you find yourself interacting with a sole police officer and you are alone its entirely reasonable to seek further reassurance of that officer’s identity and intentions. Our advice is to ask:

– For their identification, which they will always carry
– Where are their colleagues?
– Where they are from?
– Exactly why they are stopping and talking to you?

Should you need further reassurance ask them to provide independent verification. Ask to speak through the radio to the operator to verify they are a genuine, acting legitimately, or ask a passer-by to observe, or call 101 or direct message us on Facebook and Twitter which is monitored 24/7 by our control room.

Police officers even when off-duty are committed to taking action if they see a crime taking place or someone in danger. Off-duty officers will usually be in plain clothes but will always carry their police identification and will call for additional police resources

If you genuinely feel threatened or in danger, shout out for help or use 999 to contact police.