UK govt orders review into police 'political activism'

02 Sep 2023 05:59pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. – FILE PIX
Image for illustrative purposes only. – FILE PIX

LONDON - Interior minister Suella Braverman said Saturday she has ordered Britain's law enforcement watchdog to review "political activism and impartiality" within the police, in a move likely to be seen as highly politicised.

Braverman, who has infuriated opponents since taking up the post nearly a year ago with her "anti-woke" rhetoric and hardline stances on immigration, commissioned the probe to "explore impacts of police taking part in political matters".

It will investigate how "political matters" may be impacting the effectiveness and legitimacy of policing in England and Wales and influencing its policies, priorities and practice, the interior ministry said.

It cited officers policing gender-critical views on social media, their conduct at political marches and some taking the knee in public as examples of how public confidence in police may have been "damaged".

The review, by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, comes ahead of a general election expected next year.

Braverman's ruling Conservatives, in power since 2010, have been trailing the main Labour opposition by double digits in the polls for more than a year.

They have been accused of increasingly stoking so-called culture war issues - such as those linked to immigration, transgender rights and social justice - to reverse their sliding fortunes.

"The British people expect their police to focus on cutting crime and protecting communities - political activism does not keep people safe, solve crimes or support victims, but can damage public confidence," Braverman said in a statement.

Braverman added the review will explore if officers' supposed involvement in "politically contentious matters is having a detrimental impact on policing," vowing to "leave no stone unturned" to ensure they act in the public interest.

In a letter to police chiefs, the hardline interior minister said she had reiterated that officers should not engage in political activism and should adopt a position of political neutrality at all times.

Meanwhile in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, she said rank-and-file cops had told her that they are "fed up with the virtue signalling that some police leaders have been spending their time on".

"They are fed up with apologies by chiefs for being institutionally racist, because they're not racist, and they don't feel that they've been properly represented," she added.

"They're uncomfortable with the takeover by gender ideologues and trans ideology." Conservatives and others have hit out at police in recent years after some officers made public demonstrations of support for social justice issues, such as taking the knee to protest against racism.

However, UK police forces have also been embroiled in numerous scandals involving racism, sexism and corruption, in particular London's Metropolitan Police Service, the country's largest.

One of its officers was sentenced to life in prison in 2021 for kidnap, rape and murder, while another was jailed after admitting being a serial rapist.

In March, a review found it to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic. - AFP