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AC King writes on the issue of officers wearing badges

Blog post   •   Oct 16, 2015 10:42 BST

As the Met lead for uniform issues, I write to put straight to all, both within and outside the Met, the true position after repeated inaccurate and emotive stories in national and social media about policy regarding the wearing of 'Thin Blue Line' badges or patches on police uniform.

First and most importantly, let me be absolutely clear that at every rank in the Met we share the grief of our colleagues in Merseyside at the dreadful loss of PC Dave Phillips and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this really difficult time. We also think of members of the Met who have been injured in recent months in the course of their duties, as demonstrated yesterday when an officer suffered a gunshot wound in Hackney.

Frankly, I find it concerning that in this context, and when policing is facing so many challenges, anyone in the media or in policing thinks a badge is an issue of any real importance. Certainly within the Met, it is not something that is raised with me as I meet front line officers and staff; they have greater concerns.

Reports that link an MPS internal departmental email to PC Phillips' death are either recklessly mistaken or mischievous. The emails were sent prior to this awful incident and so cannot have been in response to the wearing of badges to mark it.

Uniform policy, which is available on the internal intranet, lists some badges and charity wristbands (Royal Legion Poppy, Police Memorial Day and Help for Heroes) where it historically has been decided it is appropriate for officers to wear these whilst in uniform. The policy goes into some detail on a whole range of issues, which as I travel around the Met I see officers and staff complying with to greater and lesser degrees.

Fundamentally what is important in relation to uniform is that we, as officers, look professional and appropriate at all times and have the right equipment to do our jobs well. Being a professional, reassuring presence to the public is part of what we are here for. Also, we know first impressions count. We want victims, suspects and witnesses to believe that we know what we are doing, are smart and well equipped to deal with their incident. So, looking the part helps us to do our job and helps the public. It also represents the pride we have in being officers and in the powers and responsibilities that are entrusted to us.

I believe that supervisors can and should be trusted to use their discretion sensibly in relation to a wide range of issues, from high risk operational decisions to the appearance of their staff. It would be nonsensical for me or Uniform Committee to be required to consider every charity badge and rule individually on its appropriateness for the whole of the Met. Instead, I expect individuals to use their common sense.

The Commissioner has recently made it clear that he has no issue with this badge being worn. Those wishing to show respect to colleagues who have lost their lives in police service could alternatively wear the Police Memorial Day tie pin or the COPS (Care of Police Survivors) pin that depicts a chequered ribbon. However, what is clear is that the wearing of badges should be very limited in numbers or the police uniform starts to look like a Girl Guide's blanket: not smart, professional or reassuring.

I have been somewhat loath to comment at all on the stories that have been running, as I know what the men and women of the Met are rightly focussed on is not a badge but on keeping London safe. Our police officers and staff work around the clock, showing huge commitment, courage and compassion as they deal with the most challenging and distressing of situations that the majority of the population gladly never have to face. They regularly run towards dangerous situations, putting themselves at risk to protect others, upholding the highest traditions of British policing. I remain hugely proud of my colleagues and of being a member of the Metropolitan Police Service and hope this clarification can help everyone to focus on those issues of most importance for the public and the police of London.