Labour MP and former shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler caused a stir on Twitter on Sunday when she was pulled over by the police in the borough of Hackney in London, later claiming that she was “racially profiled”.
Ms butler said she was “angry and annoyed” by the incident and claimed that the Metropolitan Police has a “cancerous” problem with institutional racism, when she later spoke to Sky News.
Ms Butler claimed “We were stopped because we were two black people driving a nice car in Hackney” and “I’m angry because I know it happens all the time every day”.
Ms Butler also stated, “I wasn’t going to go online with this but the female officer inflamed the situation”. Although Ms Butler apparently never intended “to go online with this” she did have the foresight to immediately pull out her mobile phone and record the entire incident. She also appears to have tweeted about the incident immediately after it happened.
Users took to Twitter after watching the video and have pointed out that the video taken by Ms Butler seemed to have been reversed so as to make it appear that Ms Butler was driving the car, when in fact it was the male friend who was driving.
Some users also commented that the “male friend” appears to be white in the video, contrary to Ms Butlers claim that he was black, however as the friend’s identity has been obscured it is not possible to definitively substantiate or disprove this claim. Users pointed out that it would however likely not be very easy for the police following the car to ascertain the ethnicity of the driver either, leading less credence to Ms Butler’s claims that they were racially profiled.
While many Twitter users have called for Ms Butler to release the whole video so that people can get a sense of the entire incident rather than just seeing a small edited section showing Ms Butler lecturing the police officers on racial profiling, in what some on Twitter called a very patronising way, she has yet to release this.
The Met Police have issued the following apology:
“Prior to stopping the vehicle, an officer incorrectly entered the registration in to a police computer which identified the car as registered to an address in Yorkshire.
Upon stopping the vehicle and speaking with the driver, it quickly became apparent that the registration had been entered incorrectly and the car was registered to a driver in London.” – Met Police
The officer involved explained this error and apologised to Ms Butler at the time of the incident, however even after this mistake was revealed, Ms Butler still insisted that she had been racially profiled and went on to accuse the Met Police of institutional racism, in later news reports and on social media.
So was this a case of racial profiling or was it simply a case of human error? The video in question shows what appears to be a routine police stop, due to an officer entering the number plate incorrectly. An officer who then explained the mistake and apologised to Ms Butler for the stop.
What is clear is that while racism has no place in the modern MET police force, flippant accusations of racism levelled at police officers for routine stops only serve to promote animosity towards hard-working and professional police officers. After all, it is part of the job of a police officer to pull over cars and perform checks from time to time. As motorists, should we not all accept the possibility that we may all be stopped by the police at some point?
I myself have been pulled over by the police on numerous occasions for no particular reason but I simply accept that as a part of driving.
Whatever the case may be one thing’s for sure, rather than highlight any institutional racism in the Met Police Force, this incident and Ms Butler’s handling of it, is more likely to have the negative effect of increasing racial tensions in an already volatile social environment.