The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, has released a public apology to the LGBT+ community for his force’s history of discriminatory behavior. The apology came in the form of a personal letter addressed to human rights activist Peter Tatchell following Tatchell’s launch of his #ApologiseNow campaign.
The letter, which was read aloud during Wednesday’s launch event, accepted responsibility for the institution’s allowance of persecution of the LGBT+ community.
‘The Met has had systems and processes in place which have led to bias and discrimination in the way we have policed London’s communities,’ Rowley said. ‘I am clear that there is much for us to do. I am sorry to all of the communities we have let down for the failings of the past and look forward to building a new Met for London, one all Londoners can be proud of and in which they can have confidence,’ he added.
Tatchell acknowledged in his response that this apology was a step in the right direction.
‘We thank Sir Mark Rowley for being the first UK police chief to say sorry,’ he said. ‘His apology is a ground-breaking step forward that will, we hope, spur other police forces to follow suit. It draws a line under past Met persecution. This will help strengthen LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police; encouraging more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic violence and sexual assault.’
Tatchell’s #ApologiseNow campaign aims to elicit apologies from all UK Chief Constables for their past discriminatory practices. At the launch event, members of the LGBT+ community who have been victims of police maltreatment were given the opportunity to share statements, including a video testimony from late TV star Paul O’Grady.
Tatchell says he hopes Rowley’s apology will ignite a movement for repairing past injustices done to the LGBT+ community at the hands of the police.
‘If the police say they have changed, they need to show it by acknowledging past wrongs,’ the human rights activist said. ‘They need to follow the lead of the Met Police Commissioner. All Chief Constables should apologise for the many decades of past police harassment. Apologise now!’
The campaign was not the first to call out UK police institutions for their history of discrimination. In March, the Casey Report and year-long review of the institution ‘condemn[ed] the force as institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic, referencing racist officers and staff, routine sexism, and “deep-seated” homophobia.’