George Floyd death: UK's top BAME police chief says officers must 'stand up to racists'

10 June 2020, 11:58 | Updated: 10 June 2020, 14:12

The UK's most senior black and minority ethnic (BAME) police officer has called on his colleagues in forces across the country to "stand up to racists, to inequality and injustice".

Neil Basu, assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis - which has sparked protests across the world - had "horrified us all" and "represented the worst of policing".

Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed on 25 May after white officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him.

In an internal message sent to his fellow officers, Mr Basu said he "desperately" hoped Mr Floyd's death will be a "moment for change".

Mr Basu, who is head of counter-terrorism policing in the UK, said he had been "moved" to see colleagues taking a knee in solidarity with those protesting against racism - and called on officers to be a "true force for change".

"If we want to honour George's memory and leave policing in a better state than we found it, let's hold our values close to our hearts, act them out, and be a force for true change," Mr Basu said.

He added: "Taking a knee was and is a powerful symbol of challenge and hope, and I was moved to see some of our officers do so. But personally I see this as a time to stand up - stand up to racists, to inequality and injustice."

Mr Basu admitted that he had "doubts about the organisation" after he joined the Met in 1992 - and that "friends and family thought I was insane" over the decision.

He said: "In 1993, as I took my first independent patrol, I had my doubts about the organisation I had just joined. And just a few days later, a young black man called Stephen Lawrence was brutally murdered in a racist attack in Eltham.

"It was senseless, and devastating for the family.

"Their grief was compounded many times over by our poor response."

Mr Basu said "the damning findings and recommendations" of the inquiry into the 18-year-old's death "are etched into the fabric of UK policing's history - but the positive outcomes, hard won, are real".

"Our progress since has not been smooth, either, with missteps and setbacks along the way," he added.

"Each setback is heart-breaking and despite how far we have come we must confront the fact that with many of our communities - especially the black community - we still have a long way to go."

Mr Basu acknowledged that it had been a "particularly shattering week" for BAME colleagues amid protests and violence sparked by Mr Floyd's death.

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Mr Basu wrote: "The way George died represented the worst of policing and will forever be a totemic image of racial injustice in America."

He said Mr Floyd's pleas of "I can't breathe" as he was pinned down had "become an anthem" that he hoped would become a "moment for change".

"The overwhelming majority are showing solidarity with George and what his death represents," he added.

"We need to listen to our communities, and our people, and focus on what we in the UK can do better."

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