Met chief Cressida Dick slams 'social media pile-on' as she defends 'professional' cops who stormed Sarah Everard vigil
SQUIRMING Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick today blasted critics of her force's handling of the Sarah Everard vigil.
The defensive top cop said people had criticised officers' tactics in breaking up the event "without knowing the facts".
She lashed out after a report exonerated their response and said they acted “lawfully, sensitively and proportionately” despite “severe provocation”.
Photos and video of police breaking up the vigil on Clapham Common earlier this month sparked outrage and calls for Dame Cressida to quit.
In them officers were seen handcuffing and forcibly removing female protesters, who had gathered to remember Miss Everard.
But the Met boss, who refused to resign over the scandal, slammed critics of the response and said they'd undermined public confidence in the police.
She said: "I think there are two things that come out of this report about the immediate aftermath.
"The first is that people in public life, people in responsible positions, should stop and think before they judge, whoever they may be.
"People should stop and think, because if they comment without knowing the facts, they may – and I would suggest on this occasion some people did – affect public confidence in their police service inappropriately.
"And secondly affect the officers' confidence about volunteering for the same duty in the next instance, if they are actually going to be criticised even when they've done a really good job."
The top cop revealed she had advised top politicians in Government and the Mayor of London's office that the gathering would be "unlawful" and officers would have to act.
She said: "We knew that it would result in a mass gathering, we knew there would be large numbers, we knew who would come, we knew it would be unlawful.
"What I was saying consistently was this is likely to be illegal, if it is illegal and people do not disperse when they're asked to do so, we will use as much discretion as we can, we will encourage people, we will try to get them to disperse, but if they don't disperse we will end up arresting people.
"It was clearly possible under the law for somebody who lived locally to walk as many did and lay flowers legally, there are other reasons why people might be in the area and they could have laid flowers calmly and peacefully, potentially legally.
"You would have seen for six hours we did not enforce any laws, we showed some discretion and we allowed people to carry on."
Dame Cressida said the vigil was a "unique event" after the "terrible death of Sarah Everard and the circumstances surrounding that".
She acknowledged there was a "a lot going on" and "emotions" were high, admitting her force could have handled the fallout from its actions better.
And she added: "The report suggests that if we had been slightly more conciliatory in our communications afterwards then that might have helped with what I think is in modern-day parlance a kind of social media pile-on.
"We have to go away and think about that, of course we do. We have to see whether we lacked empathy."
The Met boss also insisted a visit by the Duchess of Cambridge to the event was legal because "she's in the course of her duties, she was working".
Officers' response to the vigil was heavily criticised by senior politicians and on social media.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the tactics “unacceptable” while Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey wanted Dame Cressida to resign.
Sarah, 33, was last seen alive on March 3 walking home.
Cop Wayne Couzens, 48, is accused of her kidnap and murder.
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