Why Is The Met Police Chief Facing Calls To Quit?

Sir Mark Rowley is being pressured to step down after one of his officers described someone as "openly Jewish".
Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley is facing calls to resign.
Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley is facing calls to resign.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley is facing calls to quit after an angry backlash to his force’s response during a Pro-Palestine protest.

Rowley replaced Cressida Dick as Met commissioner back in 2022, following a particularly tumultuous period for the force. So why is he now being asked to step down, less than two years later?

Here’s what you need to know.

What happened?

On Friday, April 13, a police officer was seen on video describing a man – Gideon Falter, the chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) – as “openly Jewish” at a pro-Palestine protest in London.

According to footage published by the CAA, the officer said: “You are quite openly Jewish. This is pro-Palestinian march. I am not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence.”

Falter was wearing a kippah skull-cap at the time and said he was just walking past the protest to go to synagogue.

He was told his presence was causing a “breach of peace”.

In one clip of the incident, an officer said to Falter: “There’s a unit of people here now.

“You will be escorted out of this area so you can go about your business, go where you want freely, or if you choose to remain here because you are causing a breach of peace with all these other people, you will be arrested.”

Did the Met apologise?

The Met Police issued an apology over the officer’s use of the phrase “openly Jewish” on Friday – but suggested those “opposed to the protest” who were along the march’s route “must know that their presence is provocative”.

The police also claimed this increased “the likelihood of an altercation”.

The force then deleted the original statement on X (formerly Twitter) following substantial criticism, and issued another apology.

This second statement read: “The use of the term ‘openly Jewish’ by one of our officers is hugely regrettable. We know it will have caused offence to many. We reiterate our apology.

“We have reflected on the strength of the response to our previous statement. In an effort to make a point about the policing of protest we caused further offence. This was never our intention. We have removed that statement and we apologise.

“Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.

“Our commitment to protecting the public extends to all communities across London. It’s important that our public statements reflect that more clearly than they did today.”

According to The Guardian, Rowley said: “Every member of the Met is determined to ensure that London is a city in which everyone feels safe.

“We absolutely understand how vulnerable Jewish and Muslim Londoners feel since the terrorist attacks on Israel.

“Some of our actions have increased this concern. I personally reiterate our apology from earlier this week.

“Today, as with every other day, our officers will continue to police with courage, empathy and impartiality.”

Who is calling for Sir Mark to resign?

Falter has accused Sir Mark of “victim blaming”. He told Sky News “the time has come for Mark Rowley to go”, claiming he should either “resign or be removed by the mayor and the home secretary”.

He claimed this was not an isolated incident, but he was pleased people were “finally paying attention to it” six months after the start of Israel-Gaza war.

The conflict in the Middle East began last October, when Hamas militants, based in Gaza, killed 1,200 people on Israeli soil and took around 240 others hostage.

Israel declared war – around 33,000 people in the Palestinian territory of Gaza have been killed since, according to the local Hamas-run health ministry.

Pro-Palestine marches have regularly taken place in the months since the war broke out.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman described the Met’s response to these protests as “failure after failure” – and called for Rowley to resign.

The board of Deputy of British Jews released a statement on Sunday requesting an “urgent meeting” with Sir Mark, accusing the force of making “a series of high-profile errors” around its policing of the pro-Palestine marches.

“The entirely avoidable mistakes have had a devastating effect on the previously high level of trust held by the UK’s Jewish community in the police,” the board said.

“We have written to the commissioner to ask for an urgent meeting to reinforce the gravity of the situation and to begin to repair this grievous loss of confidence.”

What does the government think?

Energy secretary Claire Coutinho stopped short of calling for Rowley’s resignation on Sunday morning.

Speaking to Times Radio, she said: “There has been a serious mis-step here. What you don’t want is for any community to feel they can’t go about their normal lives.

“The home secretary has contacted Sir Mark Rowley. There will be a meeting in coming days.

“But responsibility for policing sits with the London mayor and I think it’s really important that he gets a grip on these protests.”

She said that she would not go as “far” as removing the commissioner, as there will be “conversations in coming days”.

Cleverly is understood to have written to the mayor , too.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We welcome the Met police’s apology, and recognise the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests, but simply being Jewish – or of any other race or religion – should never be seen as provocative.

“Anyone of any religion should be free to go about their lives and feel safe doing so.”

What does London mayor Sadiq Khan think?

Khan does have the power to sack the Met commissioner but only with the go-ahead from the home secretary, James Cleverly.

A spokesperson for the Labour mayor told Sky News: “Everybody must feel safe going about in London wherever they please. The way the original incident was dealt with by the Met was concerning and the original response put out by them was insensitive and wrong.

“The Met have an extremely difficult job - particularly so when it comes to operational decisions taken while policing marches.

“But in the end the Met must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response.”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood admitted the force had “not covered themselves in glory” over the course of events.

However, she told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “I can understand the strength of feeling and as I say that footage was very concerning and I can understand where Mr Falter is coming from.

“But I don’t think that the resignation of the Met’s commissioner is the way forward.”


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