The statement by lead researcher Mike Cunnigham branded the findings the “most serious form of corruption.”
According to the study done by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), during the 24 months to March 31, 2016, there were 436 allegations of abuse of authority for sexual gain “received, or received and finalised,” by police forces in England and Wales, including instances of multiple allegations against a single member of police.
Also, 334 police personnel had allegations of abuse of authority for sexual gain made against them during the same period, the report adds.
The watchdog found out that over a third (about 39 percent) of the allegations involved victims of domestic abuse.
For the study, HMIC polled 414 domestic abuse practitioners, 16 percent (68 practitioners) of whom said that victims of domestic abuse told them an officer or police staff had exploited them or developed an inappropriate relationship with them.
Of those 68 practitioners, about 59 percent (40 people) noted that such cases of abuse were rarely reported to the authorities, with a further 22 (32 percent) stating that disclosures occurred occasionally.
Even if the abuse was reported, sometimes it led to nothing at all being done: 10 of the 40 practitioners who stated that abuse of authority was disclosed said that a police investigation had not been undertaken in any of the cases.
“This is the most significant corruption challenge for the police, as it betrays the trust of the public – particularly some of the most vulnerable people in society. Forces need to become far more proactive in rooting out this most serious form of corruption, rather than only dealing with it once it has been reported, and ensure every preventative measure is being taken if they are to continue to hold the trust of the public,” Cunningham, inspector of constabulary and former chief constable of Staffordshire Police, said, as cited in the statement on HMIC website.
He added to the Guardian that the problem might be “more serious than the numbers reported back to us.”
“What’s less clear is what’s happening with those allegations, how those allegations are being pursued, how they translate into gross misconduct hearings and sackings,” Cunningham said.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the report as “shocking.”
“It undermines justice and public confidence and there is no place in the police for anyone guilty of this sort of abuse,” she said, as cited by UK media.
The study follows the 2012 report by IPCC, Independent Police Complaints Commission, which made similar recommendations regarding sexual misconduct by police officers.