Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has revealed she ordered officers not to ‘take the knee’ and says she would not do it herself.
Dame Cressida, 59, defended the two policemen who adopted the pose at Black Lives Matter protests in June.
But she said she had instructed officers at every briefing since to avoid doing the kneel, a protest against social injustice that has risen to prominence by the Black Lives Matter movement.
She said ‘every briefing after that for the protests included we will not be taking the knee’ in a crackdown on the gesture.
Dame Cressida also said of the heavily criticised stop and search of Team GB athlete Bianca Williams “any officer worth their salt” would have done the same thing.
She said: ‘Taking the knee, I think some of my officers took the knee.
‘I haven’t spoken to them personally but I believe they did that because the crowd that was in front of them, they’d endured all of them a long hard day, hours of protest, they were being abused, being shouted at by all kinds of people, not least I have to say my black and ethnic minority officers suffering racial abuse.
‘They are police officers so they get on with their job but that section of the crowd were saying again and again and again ‘take the knee, take the knee, take knee’ and I imagine that they thought in order to keep that bit of the crowd a bit quieter and to show some respect and some humility and some respect to what happened to George Floyd they took the knee.
‘That evening I said we are not going to do that in a public order or operational situation and every briefing after that for the protests included we will not be taking the knee.’
The senior police chief made the comments on LBC talking to radio host Nick Ferrari.
She refused to comment on the chief constable of Kent Police Alan Pughsley taking the knee at a protest in Gravesent last month.
Dame Cressida added: ‘People are taking the knee for all sort of reasons.
‘I wouldn’t, I’m a professional police officer and I don’t think we should in operational procedures.’
It came after the Metropolitan Police gave the green light to its officers taking a knee during the Black Lives Matter protest at the start of June.
Several officers adopted the iconic pose in support of the anti-racism protests in London which were sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US and are now sweeping the world.
It was the first time police in the UK have used the bold stance and those that did outside Downing Street were applauded with whoops and cheers from the crowd.
But older officers condemned the move and said police should not kneel to protesters.
One former officer tweeted: ‘I served in the Met Police many years ago. Take a knee, never never ever, I’m ashamed of what they have to do today.
In my day it would have been very very different. The Mayor of London and Cressida Dick should resign in total shame.’
In a statement at the time Scotland Yard said: ‘We know passions are running high and like everyone we were appalled by the images of George Floyd losing his life.
‘Our officers are part of the communities of London and care deeply about justice and equality.
‘Taking the knee is a personal decision and should individual officers at their own discretion, where it was safe to do so, and is doesn’t interfere with their operational duties, decide to kneel on one knee with Londoners they are free to do so.’
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said his colleagues kneeling down was a show of empathy and respect over the death of Mr Floyd.
He said: ‘I think that by those officers taking a knee during the protests yesterday shows that we are human beings.
‘I think it shows that we try to understand what is put in front of us in a very difficult situation.
‘Bear in mind we are in the middle of a pandemic which is still killing hundreds of people every day, you shouldn’t have a crowd of thousands of people in the way that there was yesterday so a lot of empathy was shown in terms of the policing.’
It came after a police force angered officers by warning that they may face consequences if they decline to ‘take the knee’ at anti-racism protests.
Hertfordshire Constabulary said those who chose not to make the solidarity gesture ‘may become the focus of the protesters’ attention’.
The advice was issued during a recent operational briefing and points out that, when officers kneel down – joining in the symbolic stance – it ‘has a very positive reaction on the protest groups’.