Home Secretary Suella Braverman has announced a crackdown on ‘woke’ policing – ordering a watchdog to review ‘political activism and impartiality’ within forces across the country.
Ms Braverman has told His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue services (HMICFRS) to probe what she describes as an ‘unacceptable rise in police partisanship’ – amid images of officers taking the knee and wearing badges in support of ‘social justice’ causes.
Speaking to the Telegraph, she claimed that public confidence in the police was being ‘eroded and needlessly damaged’ by ‘politicised’ officers, and that the review would examine whether activism was affecting their ability to police effectively.
But the demand comes just months after a damning report into the UK’s biggest police force, the Metropolitan Police, which found the force was ‘institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic’.
Policing unions and opposition parties have also hit out at Ms Braverman – known for her outspoken ‘anti-woke’ views – accusing her of using the police as a ‘political football’.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman – seen here during a visit to Greater Manchester Police HQ earlier this week – says rank-and-file officers are ‘fed up with virtue signalling’
Police officers take the knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd in the US the month before
Met Police officers marching at Pride in London in 2019. Ms Braverman says officers supporting Pride were ‘unacceptably’ taking sides
A Sussex Police car painted in rainbow colours for a Pride march. Ms Braverman said such gestures were undermining public confidence in officers’ ability to serve
But in a letter to chief constables and police and crime commissioners across England and Wales, Ms Braverman said the ‘public’s respect for policing was eroded’ by the use of resources to tackle ‘woke’ issues
She wrote: ‘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.’
She cited images of police officers taking the knee at Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the use of she/her pronouns to describe trans rapists as examples of the ‘insidious’ conduct undermining public confidence in policing.
She has also said that officers who wore rainbow colours or waved flags during Pride marches were ‘unacceptably’ taking sides, and hit out at the use of police resources to investigate complaints about gender-critical posts on social media.
She told the Telegraph: ‘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.
‘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.’
But the move has been criticised as a cheap political stunt to boost the Tories’ ailing polling numbers, which have seen them trail Labour by double-digits for over a year.
Tiffany Lynch, 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 goal posts.
‘One minute they want police officers to be more involved, the next, they want them to act like robots.’
Ms Braverman shared a copy of her letter to chief constables across England and Wales on Twitter earlier on Saturday
In the letter, she said officers taking part in Pride marches, following up complaints about gender-critical views online and siding with the Black Lives Matter movement were ‘eroding’ public confidence in the police
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said the ‘woke’ crackdown was ‘a new low’
Opponents say the Conservatives are stoking ‘culture war’ issues – such as immigration, transgender rights and social justice campaigns – in a bid to reverse their sliding fortunes.
A Labour spokesperson said: ‘Instead of setting out serious practical policies to tackle Tory failures, all the Home Secretary is doing is commissioning reports into her own political obsessions – and while she’s doing this, more criminals are being let off and more victims are being let down.’
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman 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.’
Her comments come at the end of the Government’s ‘crime week’ of linked announcements – part of its summer recess policy blitz, following so-called ‘small boats week’ and ‘health week’.
A week of policy announcements have included plans to make it easier for police forces to sack officers found guilty of gross misconduct – and a demand for officers to pursue ‘any reasonable lead’ to solve ‘minor’ crimes such as burglary, shoplifting and criminal damage.
And it’s not the first time the Home Secretary – who has previously railed against the ‘tofu-eating wokerati’ – has butted heads with public bodies with her views.
The Home Secretary was previously reported to have intervened in the case of the White Hart Inn in Essex, which had golly dolls seized by police, by reprimanding the force involved – a claim denied by the Home Office.
But her views on ‘woke’ issues in policing align with those of Sir Mark Rowley, the head of the Metropolitan Police, who has said London officers will be banned from supporting nearly all causes on duty.
Ms Braverman has previously been criticised for her hardline ‘anti-woke’ stance against those she branded ‘tofu-eating wokerati’
But she has an ally in Sir Mark Rowley, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who has said he will ban officers from showing support for causes while on duty
Rishi Sunak speaking during a press conference on the Government’s plan to ‘stop the boats’ earlier this year. Opponents claim the Tories are stoking ‘culture wars’ to win back voters as they continue to chase Labour in the polls
Met cops won’t be allowed to take the knee, fly rainbow flags or wear badges supporting environmental causes, according to comments reported last month.
But officers will still be allowed to wear poppies for Remembrance Day as well as Help for Heroes wristbands and police memorial badges.
However, the Met is in crisis after a probe conducted by Baroness Casey earlier this year found that the force was ‘institutionally sexist, racist and homophobic’.
The Casey review was launched in the wake of troubling incidents involving serving Met officers, particularly constable Wayne Couzens – who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in March 2021.
Since then, a number of Met officers have been convicted of crimes ranging from possession of sexual images of children to sending messages packed with vile racist slurs to ex-partners
Sir Rowley, however, refused to fully accept the findings of the review, branding the word ‘institutional’ as ‘ambiguous’.