Home secretary orders review into ‘political activism’ within policing – The Guardian

The home secretary has commissioned a review into police activism and impartiality as she tells officers to focus on crime rather than being involved in “political matters”.

Suella Braverman said public confidence had been damaged as a result of police engaging in “contentious issues”, such as officers taking a knee in a gesture against racism and policing gender-critical views on social media.

Braverman said: “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.”

Responding to Saturday’s announcement, the Labour party criticised the home secretary for commissioning reports on “her own political obsessions”, rather than setting out practical policies to tackle “Tory failures”.

A Labour spokesperson said: “After 13 years of Tory policies on policing, serious violence is going up, the proportion of criminals caught and punished has plummeted, less than 2% of rapists are even prosecuted and 10,000 neighbourhood police and PCSOs [police community support officers] have been cut from our streets.”

Tiffany Lynch, the deputy chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Policing should never be put on any political agenda and is too important to be kicked around like a political football.

“Our members want to go out there and serve communities in the best way possible, but need help when the government constantly changes the goalposts. One minute they want police officers to be more involved, the next they want them to act like robots.”

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael, said: “For the home secretary to use the police as a weapon in her culture war while criticising them for being political is a new low – even by her standards.”

In a letter to policing leaders, Braverman said the police should focus on tackling crime rather than being involved in political matters, in a policy described as being aimed at ensuring police time is spent on the public’s priorities.

She said: “The review I’ve commissioned will explore whether the police getting involved in politically contentious matters is having a detrimental impact on policing. I will leave no stone unturned in ensuring policing acts for the benefit of the British public.”

In an interview with the Telegraph, Braverman said her concerns went back to 2020, when she saw officers taking the knee during the Black Lives Matter protests. She added: “What’s crystallised it in my mind is meeting hundreds of rank and file cops who have said they’re fed up with the virtue signalling that some police leaders have been spending their time on, instead of focusing on back-to-basics crime.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) suggested this week that the home secretary was interfering with its operational independence and raised serious doubts about an initiative Braverman announced at the start of the government’s crime week.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) will carry out the review to examine activities affecting policing policies and practices in England and Wales.

The Home Office has requested the report by March 2024.

The NPCC declined to comment.

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