Met Police say ‘trial by social media’ undermines officers after Dawn Butler vehicle stop

12 August 2020, 08:45

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Met Police have hit out at the "trial by social media" that officers experienced following the decision to pull over a car carrying Labour MP Dawn Butler in east London last week.

The force have blamed "human error" for the stop in Hackney, after being accused of racial profiling by Ms Butler.

The Brent Cross MP was stopped by officers whilst in the passenger seat of a black BMW in Hackney. The car was being driven by a black male friend.

Ms Butler, a vocal critic of stop and search, recorded a video of the incident at around midday on Sunday.

Following the incident, Ms Butler accused police of racially profiling her and said officers must "stop associating being black and driving a nice car with crime."

She also spoke out against "racist trolls" bombarding her with "conspiracy theories" following the incident.

In a statement today, the Met's deputy commissioner Sir Steve House said it was “important that the facts are fully understood”.

And he said the officers involved had acted “professionally and politely” and that he had reviewed the footage of the stop himself.

Dawn Butler accused police of racially profiling her
Dawn Butler accused police of racially profiling her. Picture: Sky

The statement continued: “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,” the deputy commissioner said.

“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.”

He added: “The officers were not initially aware of this problem and as a result felt, with good reason, that they should do further checks on the car by stopping it and engaging with the occupants.

"I expect officers to have professional curiosity and I would have done the same.

“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 and continuing to answer the occupants’ questions."

he also explained that he has discussed Ms butler's concerns with her, stating that she has no complaint about 'how' the stop was conducted, rather her concerns lie in 'why the stop was initiated'.

The senior Met Police officer also went on to criticise the use of social media in the wake of the incident.

He said there were “existing, appropriate and proportionate processes for making complaints and for facts to be established“.

“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,” he added.

“I am grateful to these officers, as I am to all our officers who act professionally, humanely and in the service of the public.

“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.” 

Following the incident, Ms Butler, the former shadow equalities secretary, said the incident was “obviously racial profiling”.

She stated: "We know that the police is institutionally racist and what we have to do is weed that out. 

“We have to stop seeing black with crime. We have to stop associating being black and driving a nice car with crime."

When asked about the incident this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “very, very important that the Met continue to do everything that they can, as indeed they do, to show that they are serving every part of our country, every part of our community, with fairness and equality”.

A spokesperson for Number 10 later said Mr Johnson did not believe that the Met remained "institutionally racist" as an organisation.

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