Met chief demands review after embassy guard row

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The Independent Online

Britain's top policeman today launched an urgent review into the decision to excuse a Muslim police officer from guarding London's Israeli Embassy on moral grounds.

It was reported that Pc Alexander Omar Basha, who is attached to the Metropolitan Police's Diplomatic Protection Group, asked for special dispensation not to work at the embassy in central London because of his moral objection to Israel's bombing of Lebanon.

Today Metropolitan Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, called for an urgent review into the decision.

He said: "Having learned of this issue I have asked for an urgent review of the situation and a full report into the circumstances."

A Scotland Yard spokesman refused to comment on the specific case, but said they would consider special requests to be moved on moral grounds.

He said: "In terms of the general protocol for officers requesting to be moved for any reason we'd say that on occasions, for a variety of reasons, an officer may have to be moved within a specific command.

"Each case is considered separately, balancing the needs of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) against those of the individual and the role which they will have to perform.

"However, the needs of the MPS take precedence and the organisation reserves the right to post an officer anywhere within the MPS."

Former Flying Squad commander John O'Connor criticised the decision, telling the Sun: "This is the beginning of the end for British policing.

"When you join the police, you do so to provide a service to the public. If you cannot perform those duties, you leave."

Superintendent Dal Babu, chairman of the Association of Muslim Police, said on BBC radio that he had spoken to the officer concerned.

"This should have remained a private matter, a matter about welfare issues for an officer who has got Christian and Muslim relatives in Lebanon," he said.

Mr Babu said that Pc Basha had requested the transfer because he felt "uncomfortable and unsafe" guarding the Israeli Embassy during the conflict.

"What we need to do is just really put this entire issue in perspective. This is about the welfare of an individual and not about a moral issue," he said.

"I think we are going down a very, very slippery road if we start having postings based on individual officers' conscience.

"As police officers we have to deal with some very, very difficult situations and we need to be objective and make sure that we police all members of the community fairly. We can't pick and choose."