New Met police chief snubs head of National Black Police Association

Exclusive: Andy George ‘baffled’ by Mark Rowley’s refusal to meet when confidence among BAME officers at rock-bottom

The new Metropolitan police commissioner is at loggerheads with the National Black Police Association after refusing to meet its president and suggesting he will ban officers from “taking the knee”.

A request by the group’s head, Andy George, for an urgent meeting with Sir Mark Rowley, who returned to lead Scotland Yard a fortnight ago, was said to have been rejected in an email on Wednesday morning.

George, who had regularly met Rowley’s predecessor, Cressida Dick, described the decision as “baffling” at a time when levels of confidence in Scotland Yard among black and ethnic minority officers and the wider community are at rock-bottom.

George had wished to raise issues including the shooting of Chris Kaba, an unarmed 24-year-old black man in Streatham Hill, south London, on 5 September.

The snub follows Rowley’s suggestion in his first media interviews that he would prevent Met officers from taking the knee as it equated to aligning with a protest group, a stance George described as “very disappointing”.

The comments were echoed in an open letter to police chiefs in England and Wales from the home secretary, Suella Braverman, who ordered an end to “symbolic gestures”.

George, a serving inspector in the Police Service of Northern Ireland who is mixed race, said he was concerned Rowley had appeared to describe the gesture in support of equality as “political”.

George said: “I am not ever going to force anybody to take the knee, but if someone feels compelled to do so I think it is wrong for policing to restrict their support for a really important cause. It is not about making a political statement. How can equality of opportunity or any equality matter be seen as a political gesture?

“Equality is what we should all be pushing for as a police service. It is certainly the reason I joined: to stick up for people who cannot defend themselves. And again it leads to how that plays out in black communities in London at a time when the crisis in confidence is at its peak in those communities? I find it is really disappointing.”

Rowley, 57, a former head of counter-terrorism who left the Met in 2018 to work for consultants Deloitte and Quest Global, a business intelligence firm founded by former Met commissioner Lord John Stevens, has rejoined Scotland Yard at a moment of crisis.

The Met was placed in special measures in June and on Thursday, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services published a damning report highlighting how victims of crime were being failed.

Rowley is meeting with the president of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, a police sergeant who sits on the board of the NBPA, but George said it was difficult for internal organisations to challenge the leadership of Scotland Yard adequately for fear of repercussions down the line.

He said: “In the last couple of days, I asked for an urgent meeting with the commissioner and the deputy commissioner and it was turned down. It was turned down even though I had regular meetings in the diary with the last commissioner [Cressida Dick]. I met her, I would say, five times in the last two years as president. I ultimately find it baffling.

“I said it is disappointing, obviously, and different to the previous arrangements where I met the commissioner on a quarterly odd basis, and I got back that that was not the recollection that they had around the previous arrangements. Well, I have got the meeting invites.”

A spokesman for the Met said George had been invited to join the next meeting between Rowley and a representative of the Met National Black Police Association.

George said the Met had been repeatedly let down by its leadership, further claiming:

  • The Met was “gaslighting”black and ethnic minority communities and the police officers who served them on the issue of stop and search. “Report after report we have: ‘We are going to get things right and move on but our officers do a great job.’ But that does not lead to improvement,” said George. “It kind of almost gaslights the communities that are coming out with the problems. It gaslights the frontline officers as well, if I am to be honest. They are saying: ‘You are telling me I need to do more stop and search and I am going to do that to prevent serious violence and knife crime issues and then I am the one facing an Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation for doing exactly what you have told me.’”

  • In recent years, there had been four-fold surge – from 15 to more than 60 – in the number of officers being supported by the Met Black Police Association over grievances or during disciplinary processes. George said: “We are supporting officers with grievances that just aren’t being dealt with. Even when there are two or three people complaining about the same person, that discrimination is still being justified. They are still protecting the reputation of the Met over learning and improving.”

  • The career structures within the Met appeared to “operate like an organised crime gang”. George said: “You will not get promoted unless you take the party line. We have bosses and leaders that end up developing and sponsoring people that they like and [are] loyal to them, and they will pull them through.”

In response to George’s comments, Rowley said he hoped to be judged by his actions on racism in Scotland Yard.

He said: “Racism will not be tolerated at the Met. We will be ruthless in hunting for and removing racists and others guilty of prejudice from the organisation. It is my belief the Met should be judged on actions, where words and gestures often fail.

“I have a clear plan for change at the Met but I am under no illusion that I will achieve this on my own.

“I have been heartened by the way communities and the workforce have reached out to support my new direction. I’m grateful for the many conversations in my first 10 days as commissioner, influencing my plan for reform, including with representatives from the Met’s Black Police Association.

“I will keep these conversations going.”


Daniel Boffey Chief reporter

The GuardianTramp

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