UK Politics

Metropolitan Police: Legal Equality Outmoded

The Guardian reports that a Muslim member of London’s Metropolitan Police force has argued successfully that he should be excused from guarding the Israeli Embassy on “moral grounds”.

This despite him being part of a police group with the explicit remit of guarding Embassies:

PC Alexander Omar Basha, who is attached to the force’s Diplomatic Protection Group, objected to being posted to protect Israel’s embassy in central London from possible terrorist attack because he disagreed with the country’s bombing of Lebanon. The officer had reportedly attended a recent anti-war protest.

This sort of attitude has got to be nipped in the bud – and quickly. No individual policeman should ever be allowed to start picking and choosing who or what is worth protecting, and who or what deserves to do without the protection of the law of the land.

To allow the wooly minded PC Basha’s of this world to set the capital’s policing agenda would not only weaken the Metropolitan Police’s ability to do its statutorily defined duty but also set a dangerous precedent.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, last night ordered explanations:

“Having learned of this issue I have asked for an urgent review of the situation and a full report into the circumstances”

Ian Blair’s task must now be to attempt to restore confidence in the Metropolitan Police by making it clear that he takes his duty to guard all citizens and guests of the country from terrorist attack seriously – regardless of currently fashionable opinion.

The alternative to doing so is to admit that Britain is no longer a country which even attempts to provide legal protection for all: and has become a country which allows individual policemen to pick and choose their duties according to the relative hysteria of, say, that day’s cartoon in the media.

wardytron adds:

In the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that according to the BBC, the Association of Muslim Police Officers, speaking on behalf of PC Basha, said that the request to be moved was “because he felt ‘uncomfortable and unsafe'”, that it “had nothing to do with politics but was an ‘issue around the welfare of a particular officer'”, and that Supt Dal Babu of the Association had agreed that excusing officers from assignments because of moral beliefs would be unacceptable: “I think that we’re going down a very, very slippery slope if we then start having postings based on individual officers’ conscience. As police officers we have to deal with some very difficult situations and we need to be objective and make sure that we police all members of the community fairly. We can’t pick and choose”.

Without knowing all the facts of the case it’s difficult to see exactly how PC Basha’s welfare would have been compromised or threatened by continuing to guard the Embassy, but Supt Babu’s comments are welcome

Further Update: Shuggy joins the affray.

Regardless of whether this actually happened or not, the very idea that one can have a personal ‘moral objection’ against providing protection to Israeli diplomats under any circumstances is utterly offensive.

A barrister writes:

If personal opinions, on politics, social mores, or whatever, cause a police officer to pick and choose who they will and will not protect, then they are not capable of being a police officer.