POLICE officers in London have been instructed to gather intelligence from schools after massive protests against Israeli atrocities in Gaza, sparking concerns that it will lead to more discrimination against minority communities, the Guardian has reported.
The officers of London police, also called Metropolitan police, have been ordered to “increase their visible patrols” at schools and engage with school staff in order to obtain information about “community tensions”, according to a letter sent to headteachers.
The letter written to headteachers of schools in four London districts by a top Met police officer stated that the engagement would help the force’s “intelligence and information-gathering”, according to the Guardian.
The publication said that more police officers would be stationed at schools to help create “safe spaces” in collaboration with school staff.
Activists say move will increase discrimination against minorities
Rights activists and community leaders have expressed concerns over the move, saying it would further erode the minority communities’ trust in police.
“It’s very likely these actions will stereotype and criminalise young people, especially those from minority backgrounds,” Stafford Scott, a community campaigner, told the Guardian.
“Trust and confidence in the police in the communities that I deal with is very low. Rather than reassuring children, their presence in schools generally causes alarm and concern on the basis that they disproportionately target children from ethnic minorities.”
‘Ruthless’ against hate crime
Separately, the head of London police has said his officers would “ruthlessly” arrest anyone who commits a hate crime, but there could only be prosecutions when the law is broken, Reuters reported.
Mark Rowley, the head of London’s Metropolitan Police force, said he would support a review into the legal definition of extremism in response to criticism of the way his officers handled pro-Palestinian protests in London.
Some British politicians have criticised London’s police after they failed to arrest people at a pro-Palestinian rally shouting “jihad”. The police later said the phrase could have many meanings, concluding no offence had taken place.
“There is scope to be much sharper in how we deal with extremism within this country,” the Met police chief told Sky News.
“The law was never designed to deal with extremism. There’s a lot to do with terrorism and hate crime, but we don’t have a body of law that deals with extremism, and that is creating a gap.”
UK ministers are reviewing the legal definition of extremism in a move designed to counter hate crimes, including antisemitism, according to one government official. The UK government is also examining potential changes to terrorism legislation, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2023