An inquiry into the police response of a March 13 vigil for Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was killed on her walk home in London earlier this month, concluded that officers “acted appropriately,” despite video and photos to the contrary.
In a statement, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services “found that the Metropolitan Police was justified in adopting the view that the risks of transmitting Covid-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event.”
Interesting conclusion, especially since HMICFR was recently condemned by the Fire Brigade Union after the commission accused the union of preventing firefighters from helping communities during the covid-19 pandemic, following the union’s demand for stronger covid-19 safety measures. By this logic, police pinning protesters to the ground is a sound approach to preventing the transmission of covid-19, but firefighters calling for better protection against covid-19 is petulance. Got it.
From the New York Times (emphasis ours):
“After reviewing a huge body of evidence — rather than a snapshot on social media — we found that there are some things the Met could have done better,” said the leader of the inspection team, Matt Parr, using a shorthand term for London’s Metropolitan Police. “But we saw nothing to suggest police officers acted in anything but a measured and proportionate way in challenging circumstances.”
The inspectors’ findings say police officers at the vigil “did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd,” “remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse,” and “did not act in a heavy-handed manner.”
But they did note that there was a disconnect between officers and commanders about the changing nature of the event, citing “insufficient communication.”
It added that “public confidence in the Metropolitan Police suffered as a result of the vigil,” and noted the effect of the images of the officers arresting women.
“A more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better,” investigators said. One line in the report was particularly critical of the “chorus of those condemning the Metropolitan Police, and calling for the resignation of the commissioner, within hours of the arrests,” which it called unwarranted.
But when images like this make the rounds, criticism is bound to follow, and rightfully so:
Patsy Stevenson, a physics student, says she was “just standing there” when she was suddenly pinned to the ground by two officers critical of Metropolitan Police and arrested.
Police also trampled flowers and mementos left at the vigil, the site where Everard was last seen. The disrespect of the space, in concert with the aggressive response to masked mourners gathering—along with the fact that a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged in Everard’s kidnapping and murder—leaves little room for sympathy toward the cops.
This sentiment was echoed by MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, who tweeted that the HMICFR report “will offer little reassurance to my constituents, those who attended the vigil & others across the country who watched video footage of the disgraceful scenes.” She added that the report “may well heighten the impression that the police are not listening to women, or respecting the right to protest.”