Taking a knee should be an 'individual decision' for police officers, Keir Starmer says

8 June 2020, 10:03

Two officers kneel down in front of protesters at Downing Street
Two officers kneel down in front of protesters at Downing Street. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Sir Keir Starmer says it should be an "individual decision" for police officers whether they 'take the knee' or not but condemns the violence shown towards officers this weekend.

Speaking in the wake of a weekend of anti-racism protests across London Sir Keir said it should be up to each officer to decide if they will make the solidarity gesture.

The Labour leader was answering a question from a caller as part of his regular Call Keir slot on LBC.

During previous protests, several police officers were seen to drop to one knee in support of the protesters, a move which sparked criticism among some commentators but praise from others.

Read more: Twelve arrested at protest after violent clashes leave eight police officers injured

Ahead of the weekend's demonstrations, the Met Police Commissioner told LBC her officers should not take a knee during protests.

Scotland Yard said 12 people were arrested and eight officers injured as bottles and other objects were thrown in central London on Sunday.

Graffiti was scrawled on the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, while in Bristol protesters toppled the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it into the harbour.

Read more: Minneapolis poised to 'end policing as we know it' and disband police force

It's up to individual police officers whether to take the knee or not

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, was asked by Andrew Castle for her views on images of police officers taking the knee to show support for protesters in the US.

"We encourage our officers to talk to people," Dame Cressida told Andrew, adding that a main function of the police is "to engage in a positive manner with people." The Police Commissioner went on to state that although she understands the sentiment behind officers taking the knee, "we won't be kneeling during protests" in the UK.

"However heartfelt something like that might be, I don't think it is likely to be safe," she told Andrew.

England's most senior police officer said that she would not take a knee during protests, she told LBC: "I wouldn't, and I have asked my officers not to because our job is to police."

Previously Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said it was a personal choice although I would say where officers are in the middle of a public order situation, or operational deployment, they should think carefully about it because of course you are vulnerable whilst you are on the knee."