Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has indicated that he will crack down on officers supporting “woke” causes to ensure impartiality.
Officers should engage with communities and understand “what worries them is not ‘woke,'” Sir Mark told The Telegraph.
“Starting to align yourself to causes is not something policing should be doing.”
The Met chief listed the remembrance poppy as an exception, saying it’s “perfectly proper” to wear one of them, but cautioned officers against supporting most causes.
“Wearing a poppy in the autumn is perfectly proper, but there is not a lot that we should align to because the danger is that once you say, ‘we are going to align ourselves to a cause because 90 per cent of the population support it,’ what about the 10 per cent?” he said.
Sir Mark said it’s fine for officers to personally support environmental and other causes, but “quite tricky” for the Met to explicitly support them as a whole.
“There are very few causes policing should be attached to,” he said, adding that doing otherwise would be “fatal” to the force.
“The challenge in the modern world of activists and protest groups—and so much of it is online—is they do drift in different directions, some groups you can think of do have a very sensible majority membership and then a few people with extreme views and you can’t legislate that from outside it,” he said.
“If people don’t believe we operate without fear or favour, that is pretty fatal to us more than pretty much anybody else and that is why I think we have to be tougher on that.”
The Met’s dress code bans officers from wearing badges advertising causes, beliefs, or charities, with three exceptions including the remembrance poppy during the Royal British Legion’s annual campaign period, the Police Memorial Day badge for the week leading up to Memorial Day and/or when attending or policing a police memorial service or reception, and the Help for Heroes badge and wrist band.
The Met came under criticism last month after a commander reportedly told officers policing the Pride event in central London not to wear the Thin Blue Line badge because of alleged links to far-right groups in the United States.
The badge is a monochrome union jack with a blue line running through the middle worn to commemorate those officers who have been killed in the line of duty. It’s not listed in the dress code exceptions.
The Telegraph said Sir Mark defended not allowing the badge, saying officers could end up wearing hundreds of badges if he began loosening the rule.
Sir Mark’s predecessor Dame Cressida Dick was previously criticized for letting officers align with causes such as LGBT and Black Lives Matter.
During her tenure, officers took the knee during a Black Lives Matter protest, a gesture taken to show solidarity with the cause, although the commissioner said afterward that they shouldn’t have.
In 2019, uniformed officers marched at Pride in London parade. The look was completed with a rainbow-themed police car. During the same year, officers were caught dancing and skateboarding with environmental activists at Extinction Rebellion protests.
According to The Guardian, Dame Cressida also wrote to the community advisory board of Pride in London in 2021 asking them not to ban officers from marching.
In the broad ranging interview amid the government’s so-called crime week of policy announcement, Sir Mark also told The Telegraph the police officers are not the right people for dealing with mental health callout.
“Our ability to meet more expectations than we are currently meeting is partly dependent on how we use our people and having them sidetracked into things that are not core policing work means the public don’t get what they want. Communities raise very practical stuff around anti-social behaviour, knife crime and things they want us to do better,” he said.
From Oct. 31, Met officers will stop responding to mental health callouts unless there is a risk to life or a risk of serious harm.
Chris Summers contributed to this report.