Met police chief defends 'professional' officer who threatened to arrest 'openly Jewish' campaigner

Met police chief defends 'professional' officer who threatened to arrest 'openly Jewish' campaigner

The Metropolitan Police commissioner has praised the “professional” conduct of the officer who threatened an antisemitism campaigner with arrest at a pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Sir Mark Rowley told the Guardian that the sergeant involved in the incident with Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, would not be disciplined amid growing pressure on the Met over its handling of Palestine marches.

A 13-minute video published by Sky News shows a series of exchanges between Mr Falter and police officers, including one in which an officer described Mr Falter, who was wearing a kippah, as “openly Jewish”.

It also shows the officer offering to escort Mr Falter away from the protest using a different route than going through the pro-Palestine march.

Speaking before a crisis meeting with Home Secretary James Cleverly, Sir Mark told the newspaper: “The sergeant at the scene clearly assessed that there was a risk of confrontation and was trying to help Mr Falter find a different route.

“I completely understand why the sergeant made this assessment. A couple of turns of phrase were clumsy and offensive… and we’ve apologised for that.

“The wider actions and intent of the officer were professional and in the best tradition of British police trying to prevent disorder.”

Sir Mark said the officer feared that there was a risk of violence erupting if Mr Falter were to come into contact with protesters.

He added: “The public would be horrified if we said, well, it’s obvious if those two groups come together, there’s going to be a massive fight. We’ll stand back and wait till it happens and we’ll pick up the pieces afterwards.”

The Met has apologised twice over the incident on April 13, issuing one initial statement and then apologising for its first apology which had suggested opponents of pro-Palestinian marches “must know that their presence is provocative”.

Sir Mark confirmed that the officer involved in the exchanges would not be sanctioned and would be allowed to police protests again.

A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said that Sir Mark had his “full confidence” and that the Mayor held a “good, frank and constructive discussion” with the Commissioner on Monday afternoon.

“He has Sadiq’s full confidence in policing London. London is policed by consent and they both agreed getting community relations right is fundamental to that,” they added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Commissioner continued to have his confidence but stressed that he shared “the shock and the anger” felt by many over the clips of the standoff between Mr Falter and the Met sergeant.

“What I would say about Mark Rowley and the police is they do have a difficult job, of course, I appreciate that. But what happened was clearly wrong. And it’s right that they’ve apologised for that,” the PM told a news conference on Monday morning.

“And yes, I do have confidence in him, but that’s on the basis that he works to rebuild the confidence and trust of not just the Jewish community, but the wider public, particularly people in London... by making it clear that the police are not tolerating behaviour that we would all collectively deem unacceptable when we see it, because it undermines our values,” he added.

Sir Mark appeared not to agree with Mr Sunak’s comments, saying: “The Prime Minister can choose his own words.”