HOME Secretary Suella Braverman said on Saturday (2) she has ordered a watchdog to review “political activism and impartiality” in the police after an independent review found the force racist, sexist and homophobic.
Braverman, who has earned criticism since taking up the post nearly a year ago with her “anti-woke” rhetoric and hardline stance on immigration, commissioned the probe to “explore impacts of police taking part in political matters”.
The Home Office cited officers policing gender-critical views on social media, their conduct at political marches and some taking the knee in public as examples of how public confidence in police may have been “damaged”.
The review by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services comes ahead of a general election expected next year and prompted immediate criticism it was a politicised move.
The ruling Conservatives, in power since 2010, have been trailing the main Labour opposition by double digits in the polls for more than a year.
They have been accused of increasingly stoking so-called culture war issues – such as those linked to immigration, transgender rights and social justice – to reverse sliding fortunes.
Conservatives and others have hit out at police in recent years after some officers made public demonstrations of support for social justice issues, such as taking the knee to protest against racism.
However, UK police forces have also been embroiled in numerous scandals involving racism, sexism and corruption, in particular London’s Metropolitan Police Service, the country’s largest.
One of its officers was sentenced to life in prison in 2021 for kidnap, rape and murder, while another was jailed after admitting being a serial rapist.
In March, an independent review found it to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.
Braverman said the review will explore if officers’ supposed involvement in “politically contentious matters is having a detrimental impact on policing”.
“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,” she said..
In a letter to police chiefs, the home secretary said she had reiterated that officers should not engage in political activism and maintain a neutral stance at all times.
Meanwhile in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, she said rank-and-file cops had told her that they are “fed up with apologies by chiefs for being institutionally racist, because they’re not racist, and they don’t feel that they’ve been properly represented”.
“They’re uncomfortable with the takeover by gender ideologues and trans ideology.”
But opposition parties and unions criticised Braverman’s decision to order the review.
“Policing should never be put on any political agenda and is too important to be kicked around like a political football,” Tiffany Lynch, deputy chairwoman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said.
Labour criticised Braverman for commissioning a report “into her own political obsession”, and the Liberal Democrats opposition party accused her of using the police “as a weapon in her culture war”.