Senior Met officer defends police who stopped Dawn Butler

Officers ‘could not have known Labour MP was black before they targeted car’

Officers from an anti-violence taskforce who stopped a car carrying the Labour MP Dawn Butler, sparking claims of racial profiling, were not at fault, Scotland Yard’s deputy commissioner has declared.

Sir Steve House said officers could not have known Butler and the driver of the BMW car were black before they stopped it, because the windows were tinted.

The Guardian understands Butler will meet the Metropolitan police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, on Wednesday evening as the force tries to defend itself and explain its actions.

The incident was the latest flareup of long-running claims that the Met unfairly targets black people, which have gathered pace since late May following the mass Black Lives Matter protests in the UK.

House decried trial by social media of officers and also condemned abuse directed at Butler after she complained about the stop.

The stop happened around Sunday lunchtime, in Hackney, east London. The Met says details were wrongly entered into a computer and that raised a concern about it.

House said: “The officers who undertook the stop were from the violent crime taskforce and were in the area as part of our proactive work to protect communities from violence.

“Criminals often use vehicles to travel in and to commit crime, therefore officers will often check cars to see if there is anything that requires them to stop it and do further checks.”

House continued: “The officers ran a number plate check on the vehicle. At this stage, the officers still didn’t know who the occupants of the car were, including their ethnicity because the car windows were tinted.

“As a result of an officer making a human error as he inputted the car registration, the Police National Computer returned details of a car from another part of the UK.”

The Met deputy commissioner, a previous chief constable of Police Scotland, said he would have stopped the car.

House continued: “I have viewed all the available video material of that interaction and I have read their statements – the officers acted professionally and politely, explaining why the stop was made and, when realising there was a mistake, explaining this.”

The Met deputy commissioner said the Labour MP had no complaints about an officer who carried out the stop but rather why it was thought necessary.

Butler raised questions about one officer who questioned where she lived and was travelling to, and said the pair had been stopped because “there’s people who have been coming into the area”, without explaining what this meant, the MP said.

Another officer had claimed tinted rear windows on the car could be illegal. The law about tinting on windows applies only to the windscreen and front windows.

Butler has said it is the third time in recent years she has been stopped by police while her male friend is regularly stopped. During Sunday’s incident neither Butler nor her companion were searched.

House attacked critics on social media claiming it could damage the police’s ability to function: “The increasingly routine trial by social media is unfair and damaging to individual officers and has the potential to undermine the role our communities need us to do to protect them and keep them safe from violence.

“I would also like to condemn the abuse that some on social media have directed at Ms Butler. It is unwarranted and unacceptable and we are working to support her.”


Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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