Britain’s most senior police officer has said she would not “take a knee” in the symbol of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters.
The Metropolitan Police commissioner said all officers in the force had since been banned from taking a knee at demonstrations or in other operations.
“Some of my officers took the knee on 7 June,” she told LBC radio on Wednesday. “I believe they did that because of the crowd that was in front of them.
“They’d endured, all of them, a long, hard day, hours of protest, they were being abused and shouted at by all kinds of people – not least my black and minority ethnic officers suffering racial abuse. They’re police officers so they get on with their job.
“That section of the crowd were saying again and again and again, ‘Take the knee, take the knee, take the knee’. I imagine, but I haven’t spoken to them personally, that they thought, in order to keep that bit of the crowd a bit quieter and to show some respect and some humility, some respect for what had happened to George Floyd, they took the knee.”
Dame Cressida said that on the evening of 7 June she issued a direction telling officers not to repeat the gesture in public order situations or operations, adding: “Every briefing after that for the protests included ‘we will not be taking the knee’.”
She stopped short of condemning other senior officers, including the chief constable of Kent Police, who had taken a knee but said: “I wouldn’t, I’m a professional police officer and I don’t think we should when in operational duties.”
Scotland Yard has faced renewed accusations of racial profiling after Great Britain sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner, Ricardo dos Santos, were pulled from their car in a stop and search.
Dame Cressida denied that footage of the evidence “reveals racism” and said the vehicle was stopped because of the way it was being driven.
She said she had apologised to Ms Williams “as one human being to another“ for any distress caused, but believed the officers had done nothing wrong.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating the incident.
Lawyers for the Metropolitan Police are currently looking at how clips from officers’ body cameras can be released more quickly without breaching privacy laws, in order to counter versions of events on social media.
A second recent incident that provoked controversy was the arrest of Marcus Coutain, in Islington, north London, during which an officer placed a knee on his neck.
Dame Cressida said: “The techniques that you saw are not taught in training.”
But she insisted that dealing with suspects can be a “fluid situation” involving physical confrontation.
Last month, UK police leaders announced that a “plan of action” was being drawn up to address racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said it aimed to address concerns over stop and search, the use of force and under-representation of black and minority ethnic officers.
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