Police shouldn't show support for Ukraine or wear gay pride badges, says watchdog

11 March 2022, 09:04

By Asher McShane

Police should not declare support for political movements because it “does damage to public confidence,” the outgoing chief inspector of constabulary told LBC today.

Asked whether he approved of police officers ‘taking the knee’ or showing support for other causes, Sir Tom Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: “I think it does damage to public confidence.

“The police in this country should not identify itself or associate itself with any political opinion.

“Of course they shouldn’t have taken the knee,” Sir Tom told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast today.

“The model of policing we have in this country is the impartial and the objective enforcement of the law. You cannot do that if you are wearing something on your uniform which associates you with a particular point of view.

“It just isn’t OK, it’s not professional.”

He was also asked whether it was OK for officers to wear a Ukrainian flag in support of victims of the war in the country.

Sir Tom said: “It shouldn’t be permitted."

He said gay pride badges also shouldn’t be allowed because “it is associating yourself with what is perceived to be a widely popular opinion, it's not popular with everyone."

“If they take a Ukrainian flag, what’s the next flag they are going to wear?”

Yesterday Sir Tom set out his final annual assessment of the state of policing in England and Wales, saying there is no such thing as "thought crime" and that officers should stick to enforcing existing laws rather than trying to create offences that do not exist.

He said chief constables cannot "declare something that is not a crime to be a crime" in their force area, adding: "It is not illegal to think anything."

His comments follow reports that some police forces now treat misogyny and transphobia as hate crimes amid public concern about such behaviour.

Ex-Nottinghamshire police boss Sue Fish was reportedly the first chief constable to record misogyny as a hate crime in 2016.

Sir Tom said: "From time to time, one turns on the radio and there's retired chief constables declaring certain things to be crimes which are not crimes.

"I think it's necessary for me as chief inspector of constabulary to make it perfectly clear that is no part of our legal system...

"So for a former chief constable or for any police officer to say 'in my police area, such and such being a thought is a crime' is completely unsustainable."

His report said "there is no such thing as a thought crime", adding: "It is not appropriate for senior police officers, serving or retired, to assert a right of the police to declare anything criminal, least of all what people may think.

"They have no legal power to create criminal offences in their police areas or anywhere else. It is important that no-one is misled: the police enforce the law, they do not make it."

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