The police cannot “curl up into a ball” following a series of high-profile failings, Michael Gove has said, as he warned against allowing concerns to be used as an “argument against authority”.
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary on Tuesday appeared to rubbish any suggestion that concerns about British policing might clash with the Government’s decision to hand officers more powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.
It comes after the Government this week unveiled new measures to crack down on anti-social behaviour, including promises to make nitrous oxide a class C drug and swifter justice measures, as well as increased policing in areas of England and Wales deemed to have high amounts of low-level crime.
British policing is under intense scrutiny after a report by Baroness Louise Casey, commissioned in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, found the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic and laid bare a slew of troubling incidents.
Many campaigners, politicians and members of the public have spoken out about a lack of confidence in the police.
But the high-profile Cabinet minister offered a staunch defence of the principle of policing, acknowledging that while revelations about the Met were “terrible” they could not be used as “an argument against authority”.
“It’s actually a lack of authority within the Metropolitan Police in making sure that people uphold the values that should be at the heart of policing – that is the issue. And that is something that Mark Rowley as commissioner completely understands,” he said.
“What we mustn’t succumb to is the idea that the police force should curl up into a ball because of its failure.
“What it needs to do is to demonstrate that it is putting things right, that its internal procedures are correct, that those who should never have been in the police force in the first place are kicked out, but we need the police to exercise that authority because if not them, who?”
Mr Gove echoed that, using his opening remarks to draw an explicit link between antisocial behaviour and more serious criminality.
“We know that if you allow urban areas to become neglected … and if they become the sorts of areas where low-level anti-social behaviour can flourish, that is an environment, a seedbed, for further criminality,” he said.
“People need to see that civic order is being upheld, that there are uniformed individuals who will be there and there is a chance of an individual either being caught but more particularly through that presence, a clear message is being sent that the streets are there for everyone, not just for the lawless and raucous minority.”
He said he would be working with the Department for Education to ensure school attendance is approved, while also providing money for youth activities.