Home Secretary Suella Braverman has ordered a review into activism in the police, such as the policing of gender-critical views on social media or taking the knee at protests.
Ms. Braverman asked His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to examine police involvement in issues such as “gender identity” politics, critical race theory, or climate activism, and how much this involvement may be affecting the efficiency and legitimacy of operational policing in England and Wales by influencing policing policy, priorities, and practice.
“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,” the home secretary said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
Writing on Friday to His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke to commission the review (pdf), Ms. Braverman said she’s “hugely grateful” for the work that’s done by chief constables and their officers, but “concerned that instances of police involvement in politically contested matters and the influence of activism, risks skewing policing and operational decisions made by some Chief Constables.”
One of the issues Ms. Braverman listed in her minimum expectations is “whether errors have been made in relation to operational decision-making, for example in light of the Miller case in 2021; and the operational value of non-crime hate incidents.”
Harry Miller, a former police officer, won a legal challenge in 2021 after police visited him in 2019 and recorded a “non-crime hate incident” over his social media posts that were reported as being transphobic by a self-described “postoperative transgender woman.”
The minimum scope of the review also includes the quality and impartiality of equality trainings, the selection process of “independent advisory groups,” communications with the public on contentious issues, and whether there are systemic issues that prevent policing from being, or being seen to be, impartial, especially in contentious matters.
The announcement came after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley signaled he would clampdown on officers supporting “woke” causes to ensure impartiality.
Sir Mark’s predecessor Dame Cressida Dick was previously criticised 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.
Reacting to Ms. Braverman’s announcement, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) said policing shouldn’t be used as a “political football.”
“Policing should never be put on any political agenda and is too important to be kicked around like a political football,” PFEW Deputy chairwoman Tiffany Lynch said.
“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,” she said.
Labour criticised Ms. Braverman for commissioning a report “into her own political obsession,” and the Liberal Democrats accused her of using the police “as a weapon in her culture war.”
PA Media contributed to this report.