The Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has hinted that the capital’s police officers are to be banned from activities such as wearing political badges on their uniforms, flying colourful flags from police stations and ‘taking the knee’ at protests.
‘Once you start having environmental and other subjects there are lots of people in the organisation who will personally support those causes and that is OK, but the Metropolitan Police explicitly supporting them is quite tricky. I’m fairly narrow-minded on this. There are very few causes policing should be attached to,’ he said.
Some will dismiss this announcement as mere frippery, not worthy of the time of someone in as important a role as the commissioner. They are wrong.
The importance of impartiality in policing cannot be overstated. Police officers are given huge powers over their fellow citizens. In the course of their duties and without a court order, they have the power to take children away from their families, to enter our homes without permission and to deprive us of our liberty for many hours and days.
The perception alone that an officer’s decision-making might be influenced by a partisan political view has the potential to be hugely damaging to the public’s confidence that policing is being done fairly. It would be forgivable if all we were looking at was a small number of naïve officers who, without proper guidance, had chosen to wear a particular badge or lanyard in a misguided effort to show their personal solidarity against discrimination. However, in recent years, far more than this has been going on in our police forces.
The oath that every police officer takes on joining the force commits them to acting with ‘fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality’.