Black police disproportionately targeted at protests


Black police have been disproportionately targeted with abuse and violence at recent London protests, a top Metropolitan Police officer has revealed.

Police spoke of unprecedented “hatred and abuse” and “extraordinary pressure out on the streets” as attacks on officers rise.

Met Assistant Commissioner Sir Stephen house noted a “distinct step up in assaults” across the board in recent months – with 165 officers injured between 31 May and 24 June.

Last month saw thousands take to the streets of the capital in largely peaceful protests against systemic racism and police brutality towards black people.

There were counter-protests by the far-right after a number of statues in central London – including the Churchill monument in Parliament Square – were vandalised.

But Sir Stephen said that black officers have been especially targeted at demonstrations.

“One might expect that from the right wing, I guess,” he told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee.

“I wouldn’t have expected it from the demonstrators at Black Lives Matter – but it was a fact.”

Some black officers had to be withdrawn from frontline duties at protests because of the level of abuse they were facing, the Assistant Commissioner revealed.

“I just can’t say how upsetting that is for us and for the officers themselves who feel they can’t do right for doing wrong, quite frankly,” he said.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh – who leads the organisation representing rank and file officers – told the committee he has never seen “anything like it” in 30 years of policing.

While officers were injured “across the board” regardless of ethnicity, black police were abused “more vociferously” than anyone else, he said.

And protestors from “all spectrums and from all sides” were responsible for the attacks, he claimed.

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“I was there (at a demonstration last month) on one of the Saturdays for the full 16 or 17 hours and I’ve never seen anything like it towards my colleagues in terms of the abuse they were taking,” Mr Marsh said.

“It was absolutely atrocious what I was witnessing. It was just a dialogue all day of hatred and abuse.”

Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens – who leads the Met Police Superintendents’ Association – said attacks on police have become “the elephant in the room”

Black officers in particular are facing “extraordinary pressure out on the streets” during protests and day to day, he said.

Morale remains “incredibly steadfast”, but Mr Ovens fears the strain on officers will soon become too much.

There around 6,500 attacks on London police officers every year, according to Sir Stephen – almost 18 a day on average.

“The Metropolitan Police Service (…) does not regard an assault on a police officer as just part of the job anymore,” he said.

“I think we used to, candidly, but I know we don’t do that anymore.”

Conservative London Assembly member Susan Hall said attacks on police were “absolutely disgraceful” and called for better understanding of why black officers are targeted.

Just 3.5% of Met officers are black – compared to 13.3% of the city’s population a whole, according to Government data.

“We must get more members of the black community to join the police force – there’s no question about that,” Ms Hall said.

“We really need to find out why they were particularly picked on because that might then start to unravel the reasons why members of the community don’t join the police force.”

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