The Metropolitan police has apologised to its own disabled advisers for failing to consult them about how to treat disabled people taking part in this month’s Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
The force had been asked by its Disability Independent Advisory Group (DIAG) to investigate decision-making surrounding the policing of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests in relation to Deaf and disabled protestors, and the actions of individual officers.
Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) revealed that DIAG had lodged a formal complaint about the force’s “discriminatory” treatment of protesters during the protests.
DIAG warned that its actions risked causing “irreparable damage” to relations between disabled people and the Metropolitan police.
But DIAG’s members were also angry that the force had failed to engage with them before or during the protests.
As a result of the letter of complaint sent to the Metropolitan police’s commissioner, Cressida Dick, three DIAG members met on Friday with commander Jane Connors, superintendent Jon Simpson and chief inspector Neil Billany.
The senior officers apologised on behalf of the force for failing to contact DIAG until after the protests had ended, and they told DIAG chair Anne Novis that Dick was treating the complaint very seriously.
Novis told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday) that the senior officers also promised – for future protests – to work with DIAG to produce presentations that could be made to officers at their daily briefings.
These presentations would address the issues facing disabled protesters and their safeguarding and wellbeing needs, including equipment, personal assistants and medication.
This will include giving disabled people more time to move away when told to do so by officers, making sure officers are communicating properly with Deaf and disabled protesters, and – Novis hopes – ensuring they do not confiscate independent living equipment.
But she said she wanted to see these promises in writing, and she added: “We need to make sure these things don’t happen again.
“I want to see action. What they said they were going to do was good, but I want to see it in writing so it’s a proper commitment.”
She is also waiting for a response to the request for an inquiry.
She said: “They have apologised for the lack of engagement with DIAG.
“They have promised definite engagement with DIAG over protests in the future and that they would do briefings every day about disability awareness.”
She said they also committed to work with DIAG to produce training on the needs of Deaf and disabled people during protests, as part of officers’ annual training or personal development days.
Novis hopes this will be done through disabled trainers.
DIAG also hopes to act as a link between the force and the Extinction Rebellion (XR) Disabled Rebels group.
Novis said Disabled Rebels had agreed to the suggestion that they should have contact with police liaison officers during future protests.
She has now passed on these officers’ contact details to Disabled Rebels.
DIAG is hoping to meet with Disabled Rebels to discuss what took place at the XR protests.
Novis said it would be up to the Disabled Rebels to decide if they would communicate with the liaison officers.
She said: “I have encouraged them to do so because I think it would prevent some of the things that [might otherwise] happen.”
She added: “We are part of same community. Just last week I was in a protest, and other advisors take part in protests too.
“So we see these issues as ours, too. We are the same community of Deaf and disabled people who want better policing.
“As independent advisors we can raise all issues at the highest level in MPS*, and give advice on what they should do and check on progress. But it is up to the MPS to take on our advice.”
A group of three or four Disabled Rebels are also due to meet in the next few weeks with senior officers about the way disabled protesters were treated during XR.
Nicki Myers, a member of the Disabled Rebels, who was arrested because she needed assistance from a personal assistant during a solo protest outside New Scotland Yard during the XR protests (pictured), said they would discuss “how they must treat Disabled Rebels, their equipment and carers in London in the future”.
Myers, who will be part of the group meeting senior officers, said: “This will hopefully benefit every disabled person who wishes to peacefully protest in London, for whatever reason.
“We hope the police take up the offer of training from DIAG. We believe it is very much needed.”
A Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “On 23 October 2019 the MPS received a letter and formal complaint from the Disability Independent Advisory Group in relation to the policing of the recent Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’ protests.
“The MPS met with the DIAG on Friday 25 October to discuss the contents of the letter.
“It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on a private meeting.”
*Metropolitan Police Service
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