‘Terrifying and tone-deaf’: How girls actually feel about plain-clothes police in clubs

‘There’s no controlling what they will do with this anonymity and power’

The government has announced new proposals for plain-clothes police officers to “patrol” bars and clubs to protect women from predatory offenders. But the thing is, this isn’t actually going to make women feel safer. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

The Tab spoke to 15 young women about the plans, and all of them said they wouldn’t feel safer. They worry other men could use it to their advantage; they feel distrustful of the police and don’t want to give them more powers; and they think the proposal ignores the actual issue – namely, men need to stop sexually harassing and assaulting women.

This is what girls actually have to say about the plans to have plain-clothes police in clubs:

‘Men will use this to their advantage’

It’s scary to think men will use this to their advantage. It just boils my blood that they think this is helping. The whole situation is so messed up.

I’m just so tired of having to even debate it and prove why we need change. Women’s safety is not a debate.


‘How would you know who to approach?’

On a practical level, how would you know who to approach if you needed help desperately if they’re dressed like any other guy? If you’ve just had a terrible experience with a guy dressed in plain clothes at a club, women are hardly going to be keen to go up to another strange man (not in uniform) to report it to.


‘There’s no controlling what they will do’

I’d feel less safe, because also that means there’s no accountability for these police officers and no controlling what they will do with this anonymity and power.

Also the issues that women face in bars and clubs can’t be solved with a police officer in his plain clothes. If someone puts a drug in your drink you need a paramedic, if someone treats you inappropriately you want a professional therapist, councillor etc., not a cop.

Seeing the treatment of these cops at the recent protests, if you tell them there’s a guy threatening you I don’t trust them not to ignore the pleas for help they receive.


‘They need to teach men not to harass women’

This is still part of the problem – they’re not teaching men not to harass women, but just adding a preventative measure. It’s the equivalent to telling women that they should carry a rape whistle but not telling men not to rape.


‘Bouncers need to be trained too’

Considering a police officer has been charged with the murder of Sarah Everard and another police office has been removed from the case for sharing an “inappropriate graphic” it doesn’t really make me feel safer. I think men just need to stop sexually harassing us.

I don’t trust the people behind bars in a club or anything unless I know them. Also the bouncers/police outside clubs are SO rude! I remember multiple times waiting out of the way outside the doors when it closed to wait for friends and they were like “no you have to walk home you can’t wait” and I was like sorry what? I’m a woman and you want me to walk home alone at 3am?

I think bouncers need to be trained too. They’re basically telling women to walk home alone when groups of men will also be walking home, clearly they don’t know how terrifying that is.


‘It’s terrifying and tone deaf’

It’s terrifying. That is incredibly tone deaf after a police officer allegedly killed Sarah Everard.

We are screaming that men are killing us, that police officers are killing us, and they’ve gone “cool, have more of both in already vulnerable situations”.


‘It just adds to the number of men I don’t trust’

It just adds to the number of men I don’t trust who are dressed in plain clothing in one room.

I just think this is another shit attempt to shift attention away from the bigger problem. Police dressed in plain clothing will just have immunity if they abuse someone – they don’t need any extra powers. They’re gonna be the same officers who were violent towards women laying flowers at vigils over the weekend. They’re just being given more power to do whatever they want to whoever they want.


‘I wouldn’t feel safer even with female officers’

I don’t even know if undercover female police officers would make me feel safer. And because they’re undercover you’re not gonna know who to tell anyway?

I feel like I’d feel more inclined to trust a woman police officer but there were still plenty at the vigils and they didn’t seem to do much.


‘Add MORE men into the equation’

Ah yes, add MORE men into the equation. That will definitely make me feel safer.


‘It’s another opportunity to manipulate the system’

It’s sort of like those Freshers’ Week schemes where guys can apply to be an advisor to a fresher but it’s just used to shark freshers. It’s just another opportunity to manipulate the system and gain access to drunk girls.


‘What are the police going to actually do?’

It would make so much more sense if the police have extra funding for this to just provide extra training programmes for existing staff, because at least then they’ll be uniformed.

What are the police going to actually do? They’re not exactly going to verbally caution someone in a loud club. I think training bar staff and maybe even toilet attendants would be more useful, so that they know how to act if a girl says they’re uneasy. Toilets are the only space in a club where you can be free of whoever’s bothering you.

I think also, there’s a massive distinction between jobs like bouncers and police vs. bar staff. I feel like having police in clubs is making it sound like we’ve all demanded intimidation and that we want decisive action taken there and then, when actually sometimes all we’d need is to make sure we get into a taxi safely.


‘They’ll think women ‘owe them’ for keeping us safe’

I’ve been seeing loads of stuff about the “nice guy” effect. I think these police will think these women “owe them” for keeping them safe.


‘I can’t trust anyone I don’t know’

I think if the last week has taught me anything it’s just to not trust anyone you don’t know, even if you think you can.

Bar staff have helped me in the past (notably all female), but bouncers are next to useless. Why don’t they train the staff in there first?


‘Uniformed or not I don’t feel better’

It ignores the actual issue and is probably less reassuring since a police officer has been charged with murder. Maybe uniformed officers (including women) would be better, so we can report men immediately. But realistically I wouldn’t feel any more safe if there were police around – definitely not at bars and clubs at least, but maybe on the walk home.

I don’t trust police so their presence uniformed or not doesn’t make me feel better.


‘I wouldn’t be able to tell who’s police and who isn’t’

This would make me more scared because I wouldn’t be able to tell who is police and who isn’t. I wouldn’t feel like I could trust someone if they said they were the police, because there isn’t a uniform to prove it.


‘The actual problem is men’

It is completely disregarding the actual problem which is men. We need more education and tougher sentencing for sexual harassment/assault. The police, as we have seen, have been a part of the problem – I wouldn’t feel any safer with a plain clothes police officers.

I feel like men need to actually understand how many forms sexual harassment comes in. Men need to be held accountable. It’s a small percentage of men who are actually violent,  however their friends will let these behaviours and comments go by un-challenged. It is truly frightening to read some of the comments I’ve seen on social media by men who clearly have never been educated in certain topics surrounding the safety of women.

Start at the core by introducing education about harassment/sexual assault as well as male violence. As well as tougher sentencing for crimes against women. It is so disgusting how some men still have these misogynistic views. In 2021 we are still stuck in the same backwards country. It is terrifying that we still have to have these conversations.


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