Police officers should “stand tall” and defend themselves against accusations of being woke, according to National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chair Martin Hewitt.
Speaking at the NPCC’s joint annual conference with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Mr Hewitt said officers should defend their actions if they are effective in building public confidence.
He said: “Where we struggle to explain action we are taking or where it is not having a positive impact, we need to reconsider it.
“But if we are accused of being woke when taking action that we know is effective in building trust with people where that increased trust is needed, we must stand tall, champion and defend that action.”
Mr Hewitt’s comments were seen as a response to media criticism, most recently of the policing of the Just Stop Oil protests, and to remarks made by Home Secretary Suella Braverman who claimed there was a perception that officers spent too much time on symbolic gestures and initiatives on diversity and inclusion.
He said diversity and inclusion played an important part in crime-fighting and keeping the public safe and should not be dismissed as a diversion
Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom said media criticism of the police was often unfounded.
She said: “It is very easy for people who disagree with action we have taken, or not taken for that matter, to accuse us of being ‘woke’.
“It makes for a simple soundbite or a good headline but it actually means very little and has no bearing on how our members operate.
“Police officers do a difficult job in challenging circumstances. Sometimes we get it wrong and we accept we will be held to account when that happens. But meaningless labels will not stop us doing our jobs to the best of our abilities.
“Our members take an oath pledging to carry out their duties with ‘fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people’ and they will continue to do just that regardless of the criticism they may face.”
APCC chairman Marc Jones said he did not think the term woke was helpful.
He said: “The term woke means different things to different people. And whenever you get a term that can be adapted in that way, it’s unhelpful.
“Because when somebody says a word meaning a particular thing, and other people hear what they want to hear, that’s always going to be challenging.”