The new Metropolitan police commissioner has become embroiled in a dispute with the National Black Police Association after allegedly refusing to meet with its president and suggesting he will prohibit officers from “taking the knee”.
Met chief Sir Mark Rowley reportedly received an email for an urgent meeting with Andy George, head of the associatiom, but sparked fury after reportedly turning down the opportunity on Wednesday morning.
Mr George, a serving inspector in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, described the decision as “baffling”.
He wished to meet to discuss the publish backlash surrounding the fatal shooting of Chris Kaba in Streatham Hill on September 6, according to the Observer.
It comes as the home secretary told police chiefs to prioritise “common-sense policing” and stop focusing on “symbolic gestures”.
Suella Braverman sent a letter to senior policing figures them to reverse the perception that officers care more about "woke" issues than tackling crime.
Ms Braverman said the public had a perception that police officers spent too much time on “symbolic gestures” rather than tackling crime.
The move is designed to stop "virtue-signalling" among police officers such as taking the knee, sporting rainbow shoelaces and posting "woke" messages on social media.
But Mr George has hit out at the move, saying: “I am not ever going to force anybody to take the knee, but if someone feels compelled to do so I think it is wrong for policing to restrict their support for a really important cause. It is not about making a political statement. How can equality of opportunity or any equality matter be seen as a political gesture?
“Equality is what we should all be pushing for as a police service. It is certainly the reason I joined: to stick up for people who cannot defend themselves.
“And again it leads to how that plays out in black communities in London at a time when the crisis in confidence is at its peak in those communities? I find it is really disappointing.”
He added: “In the last couple of days, I asked for an urgent meeting with the commissioner and the deputy commissioner and it was turned down. It was turned down even though I had regular meetings in the diary with the last commissioner [Cressida Dick]. I met her, I would say, five times in the last two years as president. I ultimately find it baffling.
“I said it is disappointing, obviously, and different to the previous arrangements where I met the commissioner on a quarterly odd basis, and I got back that that was not the recollection that they had around the previous arrangements. Well, I have got the meeting invites.”
In a statement, Sir Mark told the Standard: “Racism will not be tolerated at the Met. We will be ruthless in hunting for and removing racists and others guilty of prejudice from the organisation. It is my belief the Met should be judged on actions, where words and gestures often fail.
“I have a clear plan for change at the Met but I am under no illusion that I will achieve this on my own.
“I have been heartened by the way communities and the workforce have reached out to support my new direction. I’m grateful for the many conversations in my first ten days as Commissioner, influencing my plan for reform, including with representatives from the Met's Black Police Association.
“I will keep these conversations going.”