A senior police leader has backed the officers who stopped a car carrying a black MP and hit out at “trial by social media”.
Sir Steve House, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said Dawn Butler and a friend were pulled over because of “professional curiosity” by officers who wrongly believed their car was registered outside London.
Ms Butler accused police of racial profiling over the incident but Sir Steve said police were unable to see the ethnicity of people inside the BMW because its windows were tinted.
“There are existing, appropriate and proportionate processes for making complaints and for facts to be established, and on the occasions where there is fault – unlike this case – for consequences to follow,” he added.
“The increasingly routine trial by social media is unfair and damaging to individual officers and has the potential to undermine the role our communities need us to do to protect them and keep them safe from violence.”
Ms Butler was a passenger in the car, which was being driven by a friend who is also black when it was stopped in Hackney on Sunday.
The former shadow equalities minister said: “We know that the police are institutionally racist and what we have to do is weed that out. We have to stop seeing black with crime. We have to stop associating being black and driving a nice car with crime.”
Ms Butler filmed the interaction, and said officers told her the car was registered in North Yorkshire and that they were carrying out searches because of “gang and knife crime”.
Sir Steve said an officer had wrongly entered the number plate during an initial search of the Police National Computer and explained the error.
But Ms Butler said driving in an area away from home would be a “ridiculous reason” to be stopped by police.
The officers who carried out the stop were from Scotland Yard’s Violent Crime Taskforce and were running number plate checks in the area as part of “proactive work”.
Sir Steve said they explained the mistake and answered questions, adding: “Ms Butler has said that she has no complaint about ‘how’ the stop was conducted, rather her concerns lie in why the stop was initiated and I have discussed these concerns with her.
“The officers in this case came into work on Sunday to keep Londoners safe.”
The incident came amid wider debate about racial discrimination in policing, including the use of force and stop and search.
Police data also shows that coronavirus fines have been given to disproportionately high numbers of black and Asian people.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in June, the National Police Chiefs’ Council announced a “plan of action” to address inequalities.
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