Southwark’s top cop has told of his personal horror and disgust at the killing of George Floyd – but urged Black Lives Matters protesters not to take to the streets this weekend.
Ch Supt Colin Wingrove, the borough commander for Southwark and Lambeth spoke of the challenges faced by cops in policing the eased lockdown restrictions.
However, he said he remained committed to engaging and explaining to the public what they are allowed to do, rather than issuing fines.
The senior Met official added that his focus was on tackling violent crime hotspots as we unlock, with incidents of offences potentially rising as the public gradually gets its freedoms back.
But he refused to comment on the government’s handling of the crisis – including its change of messaging to ‘stay alert’ – calling it “inappropriate” to do so.
Over the past couple of weeks, large protests have assembled in Southwark and further afield, sparked by the horrific killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
“Myself and officers are appalled by what’s happened,” he said. “It’s shocking, it’s just a really distressing video, and I think that’s a view shared by everyone.
“We work incredibly hard, and there’s always more to do, for everyone in society to tackle inequality and racism.
“There’s definitely no place for it in the Met, and that’s what we stand for.”
But he added: “Our position is quite clear. We’re encouraging people not to come out because they’re putting themselves and others at risk.
“I completely understand why people wish to protest, but we’re urging people to bear in mind the health risks.
“Which is why we have those regulations.”
Current rules ban gatherings of more than six people from separate households – effectively making large protests unlawful.
The council’s top boss, Cllr Peter John, has told the News that he and the local authority are in the dark over what ‘local lockdowns’ could entail.
When asked, Ch Supt Wingrove said it was a matter for the National Police Chiefs Council, which needs to formulate guidance before local officers can enact policy.
“The important thing for us is being consistent from the very start,” he said. “Our approach has not changed, having that engagement throughout.”
Officers in Southwark and Lambeth are having to explore other avenues for that engagement, though, with Commander Wingrove praising the efforts of cadets and volunteers in community work.
“A lot of our officers have been getting involved in the clap for carers,” he said, by way of example. “We’ve got a police officer [in Peckham] volunteering at a food bank.
“We’ve had a lot of volunteers help us, but a lot of those examples won’t get noticed, because they’re random acts of kindness.”
A particular focus coming out of lockdown is high-police visibility in crime hotspots, such as near major stations or shopping centres in Southwark and Lambeth, said Commander Wingrove.
“What we’re doing is looking at areas where violent crime [happens] and making sure we’ve got a visible police presence there,” he said.
“It’s about being in the right place at the right time. We’ve seen crime fall during lockdown – and we want to keep it down.”