Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer spoke out on Monday regarding the Labour MP, Dawn Butler’s police stop that took place last Sunday. Sir Keir made the brief and fairly generic statement on Twitter.
Sir Keir said in his Twitter statement, “I reached out yesterday to @DawnButlerBrent to discuss the incidence she reported and to offer our support. All allegations of racial profiling must be taken extremely seriously by the Metropolitan police.”
Adding that “It is imperative that the Black community have trust and confidence in our police. The abuse Dawn has received over social media is wrong and must be condemned.”
While Sir Keir’s tweet of the above statement following the incident did take on a conciliatory tone, it far from supported the allegations made by Ms Butler that the officers responsible had in fact racially profiled her, or indeed that the Metropolitan Police Force is institutionally racist.
Since Ms Butler made these allegations, Met Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House has come out in support of the officers involved saying that 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”.
In the end it turned out that there was a mix up with the number plate of the car that Ms Butler was a passenger in and it had come back as being registered in Yorkshire. The officers involved, being part of a serious crime task force pulled over the car to carry out checks due to cross county criminal activity in the area.
As soon as the officers ran the number plate again and realised that the car was actually registered in London, they immediately explained the mistake to Ms Butler and the male driver of the vehicle and apologised for the stop.
The incident has however, left many on social media angry, claiming that Ms Butler, far from being stopped and “racially profiled” was simply the passenger in a car that was stopped, in the same way that any other motorist can expect to be stopped, from time to time. And that Ms Butler’s filming of the stop and subsequent posting of an edited section of the footage to social media had, rather than highlighting the supposed racism of the officers involved and indeed the entire Met Police Force, only served to inflame the already volatile social environment in which we currently find ourselves.
While Sir Keir quite rightly states that “All allegations of racial profiling must be taken extremely seriously by the Metropolitan police” I can’t help but think that he was saying this from the position of the leader of the political party that Ms Butler is a member of and not, as someone who felt that there was any particular validity to Ms Butler’s claims. Clearly, as the leader of the Labour party Mr Starmer would have to make some sort of statement given the furore that Ms Butler’s claims and video have caused, but his statement seemed to be one of a generic nature as opposed to a specific declaration of allegiance to Ms Butler in regards to this specific incident.
While unfair racial profiling should obviously be taken seriously by all police forces, I can’t help but think that surely the door swings both ways. In fact, based on the uploaded video of Ms Butler’s that I watched, I can say now that what I observed, contrary to Dawn’s accusations of racial profiling from an institutionally racist police force, was a simple police stop carried out by officers that I would suggest acted with the utmost professionalism, courteousness and respect towards Ms Butler. Indeed, even as she berated them on the evils of racial profiling. The kind of police stop in fact, that I myself have experienced on numerous occasions over the years.
I would even go as far as to say that, in the beginning of the video, Ms Butler, far from being concerned about the police stop, actually appeared as though she was excited to be able to film the incident.
Now the more cynical amongst us may well say that Ms Butler was excited about the opportunity to film the police stop, precisely because she could then use the stop as an excuse to level the charge of police racial profiling and institutional racism at the officers involved and indeed the entire Met Police Force. Some might even go as far as to say that she intentionally engineered the clip for this purpose, by editing it to only show the section of her lecturing the police officers regarding racial profiling without showing the entire video and also, by flipping the image so that it looked as though she was actually the driver of the car instead of the passenger.
Where do we go from Here?
I myself am not that cynical. I mean, why would anyone intentionally risk fanning the flames of racial tension and division in the current climate that we as a society find ourselves? I think we have to give Dawn Butler the benefit of the doubt and say that on this occasion she probably simply made a mistake. What I do wonder though is, that once serious allegations such as these have been brought against a police officer or police force by one of our politicians, that is then later found to be completely unfounded, then surely there should be some sort of mechanism in place, in this case within the Labour party to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
So that damaging, frivolous and unsubstantiated claims of racism, be that claims of single incidences of racism, or accusations of institutional or systemic racism don’t continue to happen. After all, we already have these types of training and procedures in place, across the world to ensure that employees and workers are aware of and sensitive to, other problems such as sexual harassment, workplace bullying and discrimination so maybe it’s time that we also put some sort of training in place to ensure that these inaccurate and bassless accusations of racism can also be recognised for what they actually are, before damaging and divisive claims are made.
After all, as Sir Keir points out, “It is imperative that the Black community have trust and confidence in our police”, but how can they have trust and confidence in our police if the police are continuously, falsely accused of being a force full of racists, even by our own members of parliament?
When we can realise that most of the time, something as simple as a police stop is just that, and accept that sometimes motorist get pulled over by the police and that it’s just par for the course if you are a driver, then perhaps we can all, together, focus on the actual genuine incidences of racism that occur, and work at ridding them from any and all sections of our society, wherever we may find it.