Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.
Downing Street has rejected claims the Met Police is institutionally racist despite Labour MP Dawn Butler being wrongly pulled over by cops.
The former shadow equalities secretary accused the force of racial profiling after she and a friend – who is also Black – were stopped by police while driving through Hackney in a car the Met says it thought was registered in North Yorkshire.
Police later told her they had made a mistake and apologised to the MP. They did not explain why they had checked the car’s number plate in the first place.
Butler said in an interview on Sunday that the incident was evidence that institutional racism in the force was “cancerous” as she called for action on stop and search tactics.
But Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has said that the prime minister does not agree and insisted cops were “working hard” to tackle crime.
Asked by a reporters at briefing on Monday whether the Met was institutionally racist, they said: “I don’t think the PM would take that view of the Met Police. The Met, like other police forces across England and Wales, are working very hard tackling issues such as knife crime and drugs.”
Butler had previously said: “It is tiring and exhausting and mentally draining.
“This is a police service that is supposed to police everyone. And I understand there are issues and they need to be dealt with.
“But deal with them in an equitable way. Don’t deal with them in an unfair way and a biased way or a racist way. Deal with it properly and then we can all be on board with that.”
In a video of the incident, Butler tells the police: “It is really quite irritating. It’s like you cannot drive around and enjoy a Sunday afternoon whilst Black, because you’re going to be stopped by police.”
One of the officers in the video tells her: “I appreciate everything you say and I do apologise for wasting your time.”
Butler told Sky News there is “institutional racism” in the police. “We know that,” she said. “And it needs to be taken out. It is cancerous and it needs to be cut out of the police force. It’s urgent – it’s absolutely urgent.”
She added: “I want to work with the police to get this right.”
In a statement, the Met said officers had stopped a vehicle in Hackney.
“Prior to stopping the vehicle, an officer incorrectly entered the registration into a police computer which identified the car as registered to an address in Yorkshire,” the force said.
“Upon stopping the vehicle and speaking with the driver, it quickly became apparent that the registration had been entered incorrectly and was registered to the driver in London.
“Once the mistake was realised the officer sought to explain this to the occupants; they were then allowed on their way.
“No searches were carried out on any individuals.”
They added: “One of the occupants has since been contacted by a senior officer and they have discussed the stop [and] subsequent interaction as well as feedback regarding the stop.
“We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with the occupants if they wish to do so.”