What use is more police if it means more abuse?

September 21, 2023

Collage by Exposure using police image by jacqueline macou and caution sign image by Sima Ghaffarzadeh both from Pixabay

Kerrie Portman explains why electioneering for more ‘bobbies on the beat’ is a threat not a promise

Content warning: the following article mentions rape and abuse that some may find distressing

Scrolling through social media, my feeds often look like this; stark reports of police abuse appearing right next to political party promises of putting more police officers on the streets.

I was sexually assaulted by the police when I was homeless. I had no support and absolutely nobody to turn to. I developed significant trauma over this, worsened when local politicians chose to bully me over being the
victim of rape.

For years, I couldn’t even see a police car without having a flashback.

I feel terrified even hearing the word ‘police’. I’ve been harassed by the
police and I don’t see how I can ever escape them and their never ending campaign of terror.

‘Violated’ doesn’t begin to cover how it feels to be sexually assaulted by the police. I felt like my body doesn’t even belong to me because the police can just come and do what they want and people can only ever help me after the fact.

Online I see stories of others who have experienced similar or worse than me. I know now that I am not alone. This is worse. This is more scary.

When I was raped I screamed until I tore my throat. I can still taste the phantom blood from that day

When I was bullied by local politicians and councillors after they found out I was raped by the police, I saw the culture that allowed rapists to stay in power and get away with it. I was devalued and dehumanised by another group of people, one campaigned to be in roles to help people like me. Instead, they chose to show me a new monster, one that doesn’t fancy himself a monster, because he didn’t physically do the abusing, but one that is nearly as bad because he just stands there and lets it happen.

When I was raped I screamed until I tore my throat. I can still taste the phantom blood from that day. Nobody helped me. The world is made of these sorts of monsters.

The next General Election is to be no later than 24 January 2025, probably earlier to avoid campaigning during the holiday, and political parties are already acutely aware of this. They tend to tailor their manifestos and policies towards people they think are most likely to vote for them.

When I see political parties campaigning for more police officers, without significant police reform, I feel terrified. It’s not just me that feels the promise of increasing police numbers is a thinly veiled threat. Those that are the most vulnerable to the systematic abuse of police tend to be marginalised groups; women, the LGBTQIA+ community, people of colour, those from low socio-economic backgrounds, homeless people, Care Experienced people, those with mental illness and so forth.

Any party that wants to be in government should advocate for the reconstruction and reform of the police force, so everyone can feel safer

On the other side of the coin, white, middle or upper class, able bodied, straight, cis gender men tend to not only be the least vulnerable but also the ones who even feel safer with more police. Political parties promising increased police numbers seem to be pandering to the latter demographic, at the expense of the former. This strategy alienates a lot of voters, who already tend to feel disenfranchised from traditional politics. It not only communicates that the priorities of minority groups aren’t the priority of these parties, but that our very safety can be sacrificed.

The ideology of police doesn’t have to inherently involve corruption and abuse. It should not. So it’s not that parties have to choose between having less police or having abusive police. It is not necessarily one group or the other; no demographic has to be alienated.

Any party that wants to be in government should advocate for the reconstruction and reform of the police force, so everyone can feel safer. Prison chiefs are concerned that the prisons in England in Wales are now full, whilst vulnerable people are being dragged through the justice system for being mentally ill, not-white or Care Experienced, leaving them with significant long-term psychological harm.

We deserve a government who can understand the nuances of institutional power and cares enough to change the systemic institutional corruption of the police

Other political parties, like the Women’s Equality Party, advocate for the protection of women against the police. The biggest political parties should follow this model and advocate for the reform of the police force so that it is a safe plan to put more police officers on the street.

Promising more police, when police abuse people, should have no place in electioneering this General Election. We deserve a government who can understand the nuances of institutional power and cares enough to change the systemic institutional corruption of the police. As voters, we can campaign for what we care about to try and get the political parties and political actors who want our vote to listen to us. Politicians are elected representatives that work for the people who elect them. They should care about our voices, wishes and safety.

For London’s democracy to work for everyone, every voice must be heard.
Greater London Authority has this advice on registering to vote.
Register to vote free here.
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Kerrie is an autistic care leaver, her love of writing originating from the desire to raise awareness of discriminatory practices in social care. This led to her main writing accomplishments, including two published articles in The Guardian and co-authoring a chapter of the book: ‘COVID-19 and Co-production in Health and Social Care Research, Policy, and Practice, Volume 2: Co-production Methods and Working Together at a Distance’. As Kerrie’s love of writing grew, it expanded to most topics and she has also guest-written articles for Ambitious About Autism, National Student Pride, iReader, Heroica, Wearewriteous and North Hertfordshire Pride.

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