LONDON - Police officers across the UK have been urged to “stand up to racism”, as a police chief said it was time to “stand up to racists … inequality and injustice”.
Neil Basu, assistant chief commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, made the call in a letter to his UK colleagues as anti-racism protests continue through the country.
The police chief said he had his “doubts” about the force when he joined in 1992, saying it was “particularly hard” to be from a minority ethnic background at the time of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.
“The damning findings and recommendations of that inquiry are etched into the fabric of UK policing’s history – but the positive outcomes, hard won, are real,” he wrote.
“Our progress since has not been smooth, either, with missteps and setbacks along the way.
“Each setback is heart-breaking and despite how far we have come we must confront the fact that with many of our communities – especially the black community – we still have a long way to go.”
Mr Basu said it had been a “particularly shattering week” for Bame colleagues amid protests and violence sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.
“The way George died represented the worst of policing and will forever be a totemic image of racial injustice in America,” he said.
“His last words … ‘I can’t breathe’ … have become an anthem, and I desperately hope this is their moment for change.”
Mr Basu’s comments come just months after he said officers should strive during the coronavirus pandemic to preserve the public’s confidence through persuasion and education, rather than automatic enforcement.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph on  30 March, he called for the public to show understanding toward police and for officers to “police by consent” as they were compelled to use powers he “never imagined a British police officer would be asked to use”.
He echoed that call in his letter to officers, writing that it was important to recognise the differences in British and US policing.
“We are not the same, because unlike America we overwhelmingly police by consent, and not by force,” he wrote.
Mr Basu urged his colleagues to recognise demonstrators were angry not just at police brutality but also with institutional racism.
“So let us view the legitimate anger, manifesting itself now in different ways, with nuance and care,” he said.
“Yes, some people behave badly; yes, a tiny minority are no more than criminal opportunists, but the overwhelming majority are showing solidarity with George and what his death represents.
“They have a point. We need to listen to our communities, and our people, and focus on what we in the UK can do better.”(FA)