A FURIOUS row has broken out after police were told they must not wear a Union Jack badge in support of families of fallen officers for fear offending Muslim and black communities.
A high-ranking Metropolitan Police officer last week sent an email forbidding officers from wearing the emotive “thin blue line” badge. A former detective said some senior officers thought it “could cause offence to some within certain communities”.
The row follows the death last Monday of PC David Phillips, who died after being knocked down by a hit-and-run driver while on duty in Merseyside.
Many officers had wanted to wear the badge (a black-and-white Union Jack with a horizontal blue line) in support of the 34-year-old father of two, but police sources said senior officers had expressed concern that the badge could provoke ill feelings in some communities.
Yesterday Ken Marsh, chairman of the Met Police Federation constables’ branch, said the email was sent around the time of PC Phillips’s death.
He said: “It told officers they couldn’t wear it because it wasn’t functional with regulations on police uniforms.”
However, the day after the tragedy Met Commissioner Sir Bernard HoganHowe said he had “no issue” with his officers wearing the badge.
That was his response when was he was asked directly about the “thin blue line” email last Tuesday when both he and Mr Marsh were at a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of PC Keith Blakelock in Tottenham, north London.
Yet despite the Commissioner’s words Scotland Yard uniform policy still does not give formal permission for the badges to be worn.
Mr Marsh said: “There is a lack of communication around what is going on.” Former Met detective Chris Hobbs added: “First and foremost the badge publicly demonstrates support for the families of fallen officers.
“However, there have been suggestions from a minority of senior officers that the badge could cause offence to some within certain communities although there have been no concerns expressed to me.
“There is also consternation amongst some within the police hierarchy that the badge may be seen as some sort of political statement.
“As a retired officer I wear it partially because to me personally it illustrates the fact that the thin blue line is getting thinner across many parts of the country due to job cuts.
“It really is now time for the Yard to clearly state that, as policy, it is permissible for officers to wear this badge on duty thus ending the mixed messages and confusion.”
Mr Marsh added: “I don’t see any way it can be deemed sensitive. Every officer in the British police force is British.”
However he said some officers were wearing the badges to make a point of solidarity “because they don’t have any voice or way of telling the government what is happening”.
He said some senior officers were “very nervous about the fact that officers are getting more and more disgruntled.
“I think this goes far deeper than the Met. County forces are in a far worse position.”
It appears that confusion over the wearing of the badge has already spread to other forces. A serving Hampshire officer tweeted a message saying: “To some it’s just a thin blue line. Others think it’s a political statement. It’s a family crest. RIP PC Phillips.”
Last night a Scotland Yard spokesman said though the badge was not an officially sanctioned decoration it could be worn with a supervisor’s discretion.
He said: “The Metropolitan Police has a dress code policy to clarify standards expected from all staff, whether they are wearing uniform or plain clothes.”
He said approved pins, badges and wrist bands included the Police Memorial Day Badge, the Royal British Legion Remembrance Day Poppy, and the Help for Heroes badge or wrist band.
The Union Jack badges are produced by the Care of Police Survivors (COPS) charity, which has passed a message of sympathy and offer of support to PC Phillips’ widow Jennifer, 28, and daughters Abi, seven, and Sophie, three.