The Home Office has commissioned a review into “activism and impartiality” in the police after Suella Braverman appeared to shame officers for “dancing and fraternising” with LGBTQ+ activists and “waving the Progress [Pride] flag”.
Home secretary Braverman announced on Saturday (2 September) that she is ordering a review into alleged “political activism” in the police, with the expectation that the police should “focus on tackling crime,” rather than being involved in what she describes as “political matters”.
In an open letter to the chief constable of England and Wales dated Friday (1 September), Braverman mentioned a number of so-called “political matters”, including associating with activists, waving the Progress Pride flag which she said “symbolises highly contested ideologies”.
The Progress Pride flag includes includes black and brown colours to demonstrate inclusion of LGBTQ+ people from minority ethnic communities, and the blue, pink and white stripes of the trans Pride flag.
Other “political” acts included painting police cars in Progress flag colours, siding with what Braverman called the “highly political” Black Lives Matter movement by taking a knee, apologising for being “institutionally racist”, and “encouraging the uptake” of “critical race theory, gender ideology, or eco-extremism, as useful frameworks for policing”.
“In all of these examples, public confidence was damaged by the sight of a supposedly apolitical police force siding with one group over another in a currently contentious area of public debate,” the controversial home secretary wrote. “In all of these examples, the public’s respect for policing was eroded.”
Public confidence in British police forces has dropped significantly over the past few years in part due to notorious cases of mismanagement, including the murders carried out by Grindr killer Stephen Port and the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.
Additionally, an independent review of the Metropolitan Police by Baroness Louise Casey found that it was institutionally homophobic, racist and misogynistic.
Despite this, Braverman’s focus appears to be on rebuilding confidence by forbidding officers to fly LGBTQ+ Pride flags.
“Many flags, including the ‘Progress flag’ are likely to require express consent from the relevant planning authority,” she continued.
“At the same time, officers should not be wearing or waving badges or flags that undermine their oath of impartiality or which may lead members of the public to question their impartiality.
“I ask that you keep these matters in your force under constant scrutiny and take appropriate action to address them. This is common sense policing, what the public rightly expects and how we will restore confidence.”
Both Labour and the Lib Dems have condemned Braverman’s announcement of the policing review, with a Labour Party spokesperson accusing her of “commissioning reports into her own political obsessions”, the i reported.
Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “For the home secretary to use the police as a weapon in her culture war while criticising them for being political is a new low – even by her standards.”
Met Police denies targeting ‘woke’ issues in interview
Braverman’s decision to implement a review into political bias in policing comes amid Metropolitan police chief Mark Rowley’s comments on dress code policies to the Telegraph earlier this week.
In an interview with the publication on Monday (28 August), the commissioner said he was “fairly narrow-minded” on allowing officers to wave rainbow flags or wear climate action badges.
However, in a statement to PinkNews, Scotland Yard said it refutes the suggestion that the comments were aimed at a particular part of society.
“The Met’s dress code policy has not changed,” a spokesperson said. “It sets out the official uniform police officers must adhere to while serving the public.
“The policy makes exception for the work of the National Police Memorial Day Trust, Help for Heroes, and the Royal British Legion charities, and permits officers to wear their insignia on duty.”
Rowley also said that it wasn’t “woke” to engage with communities to understand what worries them in a statement provided to PinkNews.
“It is a central part of our service to Londoners and at the heart of the principle of policing by consent. London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and it’s crucial we police in a way which responds to the varied, complex and unique challenges this presents,” Rowely told PinkNews.
Aligning with causes is “not something policing should be doing” and would not “deliver the scale of change required across the Met,” he added.
“There are lots of people in the organisation who will personally support causes, and that is absolutely OK but, as an organisation, we must remain impartial and focused on the significant job at hand.”
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