Hertfordshire Constabulary has warned police officers about not taking the knee
They say officers who do not make the solidarity gesture may become targets
One senior detective has branded the whole process as ‘absurd’
A police force has angered officers by warning that they may face consequences if they decline to ‘take the knee’ at anti-racism protests.
Hertfordshire Constabulary said those who chose not to make the solidarity gesture ‘may become the focus of the protesters’ attention’.
The advice was issued during a recent operational briefing and points out that, when officers kneel down – joining in the symbolic stance of the Black Lives Matter movement – it ‘has a very positive reaction on the protest groups’.
But one senior detective told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It’s absurd. Will officers be expected to make similarly appeasing gestures at political events – far-Right protests, for instance?’
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett is among politicians who have warned that the action risks drawing police into politics and could lead to false accusations of racism being levelled at any who refuse to join in.
‘I am concerned that the gesture of kneeling, though prompted by the best instincts, might give the perception of undermining the role of the police in such situations,’ he said last week.
‘They are there to ensure a safe demonstration, not to make political statements.’ He added that many people ‘may have been left deeply uneasy at the sight of police kneeling before a protesting crowd’, saying: ‘If they attend rallies in their own time, I would have no problem with police making symbolic gestures of solidarity with anti-racists. But it is a different matter when they don their uniform’.
Hertfordshire Police faced criticism of its handling of a Black Lives Matter protest in the town of Hoddesdon last week where hecklers cut short a peaceful demonstration by yelling racist abuse.
In a video widely shared online, one man was heard shouting ‘Go back to Africa’ at protesters.
Police stationed themselves between the two groups as tensions escalated, but many expressed anger that no arrests were made. The force has now launched an investigation.