New Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley is at odds with the National Black Police Association after refusing to meet its chairman and suggesting he will ban officers from ‘taking the knee’.
A request from group leader Andy George for an urgent meeting with Rowley, who returned to lead Scotland Yard a fortnight ago, was reportedly denied in an email on Wednesday morning.
George, who had met regularly with Rowley’s predecessor Cressida Dick, called the decision “disconcerting” at a time when levels of trust in Scotland Yard among black and ethnic minority officers and the wider community are at an all time high. down.
George had wanted to raise issues such as the shooting of Chris Kaba, a 24-year-old unarmed black man in Streatham Hill, south London, on September 5.
The snub follows Rowley’s suggestion in his early media interviews that he would stop Met officers from taking the knee as it amounted to aligning himself with a protest group, a stance George described as “very disappointing”.
The comments were echoed in an open letter to police chiefs in England and Wales by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who ordered an end to the ‘token gestures’.
George, a serving inspector with the Police Service of Northern Ireland who is of mixed race, said he was concerned Rowley appeared to describe the equality gesture as “political”.
George said: ‘I will never force anyone to kneel, but if anyone feels compelled to do so I think the police are wrong to restrict their support to a really important cause. It’s not about making a political statement. How can equal opportunities or any question of equality be considered a political gesture?
“Equality is what we should all stand for as a police service. This is certainly the reason why I joined: to defend people who cannot defend themselves. And again, that leads to how this is happening in black communities in London at a time when the crisis of trust is at its height in those communities? I find that really disappointing. »
Rowley, 57, a former counter-terrorism chief who left the Met in 2018 to work for consultants Deloitte and Quest Global, a business intelligence firm founded by former Met Commissioner Lord John Stevens, has joined Scotland Yard in a moment of crisis.
The Met was placed in special measures in June and on Thursday the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Fire and Rescue Services released a damning report highlighting how victims of crime were being rejected.
Rowley is meeting the chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, a police sergeant who sits on the NBPA board, but George said it was difficult for internal organizations to adequately challenge Scotland Yard’s leadership for fear of repercussions down the line.
He said: ‘In the past two days I have requested an urgent meeting with the commissioner and the deputy commissioner and this has been refused. It was refused even though I had regular appointments in the diary with the last commissioner [Cressida Dick]. I’ve met her, I would say, five times in the last two years as president. In the end, I find it stunning.
“I said it was disappointing, obviously, and different from previous arrangements where I met the commissioner every quarter, and replied that it was not the memory they had of previous arrangements. Well, I have the meeting invitations.
George said the Met had been repeatedly let down by its executives, further claiming:
The Met was gaslighting black and ethnic minority communities and the police who serve them on the issue of stop and search. “Report after report we have: ‘We’re going to get it right and move forward, but our officers are doing a great job.’ But it doesn’t lead to improvement,” George said. “It almost enlightens the communities that have problems. To be honest, it enlightens the frontline officers as well. of stops and frisks and I’m going to do it to prevent serious issues of violence and knife crime and then I’m the one facing an investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Office for doing exactly what you told me.'”
In recent years, the number of officers supported by the Met Black Police Association through grievances or in disciplinary proceedings has quadrupled – from 15 to more than 60. George said: “We support officers whose grievances are not just not processed. Even when two or three people complain about the same person, this discrimination is still justified. They still protect the Met’s reputation on learning and improving.
Career structures within the Met appeared to “operate like an organized crime gang”. George said: ‘You won’t get promoted unless you toe the party line. We have bosses and leaders who end up developing and sponsoring people they love and [are] faithful to them, and they will get them through.
In response to George’s comments, Rowley said he hoped to be judged by his actions against racism at Scotland Yard.
He said: “Racism will not be tolerated at the Met. We will be ruthless in hunting down and removing racists and other prejudice perpetrators from the organization. I believe the Met should be judged by its actions, where words and deeds often fail.
“I have a clear plan for change at the Met, but I have no illusions that I will achieve it on my own.
“I have been encouraged by how communities and the workforce have reached out in support of my new leadership. I am grateful for the many conversations during my first 10 days as Commissioner, which have influenced my reform plan, especially with representatives of the Met’s Black Police Association.
“I will continue these conversations.”