Inquiry Into Embassy Police Row
An inquiry has been ordered by Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair after a Muslim constable was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy in London. Sir Ian says he wants an “urgent review of the situation and a full report”. The Sun newspaper said the officer was reassigned on “moral grounds” as he objected to Israeli actions in Lebanon.
But the Association of Muslim Police Officers said it was a “welfare issue” – the officer had Middle Eastern relatives and felt unsafe in that role.
The officer, who has been named as Pc Alexander Omar Basha, is attached to the Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group. He has a Syrian father and a Lebanese wife.
During the summer, when Israel was involved in a month-long conflict with Lebanese militants, Pc Basha asked to be moved from the Israeli embassy because he felt uncomfortable and unsafe.
Now the conflict is over, the Association of Muslim Police Officers – which is speaking on his behalf – said Pc Basha had asked to be excused from his duties because he felt “uncomfortable and unsafe”.
Superintendent Dal Babu, from the association, told BBC News the officer’s reassignment had nothing to do with politics but was an “issue around the welfare of a particular officer”.
“The particular officer has brought an issue forward. His wife is Lebanese and his father is from Syria.
“He brought this issue up at the start of August and has expressed a desire to be posted elsewhere whilst the war was going on.”
Supt Babu said Pc Basha was now back on diplomatic protection group duties and that “if an incident happens at the Israeli embassy he will deal with it”.
Supt Babu accepted that excusing officers from assignments because of moral beliefs would be unacceptable.
“I think that we’re going down a very, very slippery slope if we then start having postings based on individual officers’ conscience,” he said.
“As police officers we have to deal with some very difficult situations and we need to be objective and make sure that we police all members of the community fairly.
“We can’t pick and choose.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman said it would sometimes consider a special request to be moved on moral grounds – but added they reserved the right to post an officer anywhere.
The Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the force’s work, pointed out that police officers took an oath of allegiance.
The authority, which has also asked for a report, said officers often had to undertake duties where the subject conflicted with their personal beliefs.