The police watchdog has taken a veiled swipe at London Mayor Sadiq Khan for criticising the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the Sarah Everard vigil.
The force was widely condemned for the policing of the vigil for the murdered 33-year-old at Clapham Common on March 13, which saw female protesters bundled to the ground and arrested.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was called in to probe the Met’s conduct after a major public outcry.
But in a new report on Tuesday, it said the force had acted appropriately and denied that officers had been heavy-handed.
And it said high profile critics of the force had “undermined public confidence” by jumping to conclusions with little evidence, which showed a “distinct lack of respect for public servants”.
Mr Khan was vocal in his condemnation of the handling of the vigil, describing the scenes as “unacceptable” in a late-night statement on March 13.
He said: “The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from the images I have seen it is clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.”
Mr Khan later said he was “not satisfied” with Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick’s explanation of the handling of the vigil.
The report was critical of the “chorus of those condemning the Metropolitan Police and calling for the resignation of the Commissioner” – and said such comments “undermined public confidence in policing”.
In a clear swipe at Mr Khan and other politicians, the watchdog said the move showed “a distinct lack of respect for public servants” in difficult circumstances.
It said: “The chorus of those condemning the Metropolitan Police, and calling for the resignation of the Commissioner, within hours of the arrests – and presumably, with a very limited understanding of what had happened – was unwarranted.
“Whereas a certain degree of uninformed commentary, particularly on social media, is inevitable, in this case some of the leading voices were those in positions of some responsibility.
“It is one thing – as in the case of the Home Secretary – to recognise that the scenes were worrying or upsetting (and to order an inspection such as this).
“It is another to jump to conclusions – and in doing so, undermine public confidence in policing – based on very limited evidence.
“To do so shows a distinct lack of respect for public servants facing, as we have described, a sensitive and complex situation.”
Shaun Bailey, Tory candidate for Mayor of London, said his Labour rival had “serious questions” to answer over his response to the policing of the vigil.
But Mr Khan hit back, saying it was his job to stand up for Londoners and ensure proper scrutiny of the Met Police.
He said in a statement: “The tragic abduction and death of Sarah Everard has rightly caused huge anger and my thoughts and prayers remain with her family and loved ones.
“I completely understand why women, girls and allies wanted to hold a vigil to remember Sarah at Clapham Common and show solidarity with all women who have been subjected to violence at the hands of men.
“While I do not have operational control over the police, I called for the Government and MPS to find a way to allow the vigil to happen legally and safely in advance of Saturday 13 March, and was provided with assurances that the MPS would police it sensitively.
“It is my job to stand up on behalf of Londoners and ensure that there is effective scrutiny of the Metropolitan Police – particularly in the light of such widespread public dismay.
“I accept the HMICFRS report, but it is clear that trust and confidence of women and girls in the police and criminal justice system is far from adequate.
“The events of the weekend of 13/14 March have done further damage to this and show that much more needs to be done.”