Why Would Feminists Trust the Police?

Why Would Feminists Trust the Police?:A tangled history of resistance and complicity

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How did feminists end up turning to the police and the law to make them safe?

The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by London Met officer Wayne Couzens and the sharing photos of the bodies of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry by constables revealed something rotten about policing in Britain. Every week it seems there is a fresh scandal involving abhorrent, racist, misogynist behaviour by serving officers. Yet, these are the very people that women are supposed to seek help from when they face violence. And many feminists continue to hope that the criminal justice system can be used to make women safe: fighting for stronger laws and longer sentences for those who harm them.

Why Would Feminist Trust the Police? traces the history of British feminism’s alliances and struggles with the law and its enforcers, to ask: how did feminists come to rely on the police to make them safe? And how can we change course? Drawing on the history of Black British feminism and police and prison abolition, Leah Cowan issues a corrective: the police are not feminists, and they will not bring us safety.


  • An urgent call to dismantle carceral feminism rooted in a powerful historical analysis that centers the lived experiences and movements of those left out of mainstream feminism.

    Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing
  • This unflinching history of mainstream British feminism's entanglements with the police deserves to be read by all feminists. Cowan tackles crucial questions, from why some suffrage campaigners eventually became fascists, to why some feminists demanded more police power after Sarah Everard was murdered by a serving police officer. She also explores the still-marginalised history of working class, women of colour feminist organising which has sought transformation instead of control. This is essential reading to help us out of the quagmire in which gains for some women are still achieved at the expense of others.

    Alison Phipps, author of Me, Not You: the trouble with mainstream feminism
  • Why Would Feminists Trust the Police? is the book we've been waiting for. Leah combines forensic research with a rare and generous clarity of thought. I learned so much about the history of policing and the pioneering attempts to build something different and better in the future. This should be required reading, especially for white women.

    Emily Kenway, author of Who Cares