Police have hit back at Labour’s Diane Abbott after she criticised the Met for knocking moped yobs off their bikes.
Scotland Yard was praised by Londoners last week after it released footage of its new ‘tactical contact’ method of catching scooter criminals.
Detectives explained they only use the technique – which involves tipping thieves onto the ground by driving into their bikes – when the riders become a danger to the public.
But Shadow Home Secretary Ms Abbott, who will be in charge of policing if Labour win the next election, was unimpressed by the footage.
Diane Abbott provoked anger online when she criticised the police’s new methods of stopping moped thieves by knocking them over
Camden Police said it is their responsibility to protect the public from dangerous criminals
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation, branded her comments ‘unhelpful’
Critics expressed concern that the views came from the politician who could be in charge of policing after the next election
Ms Abbott tweeted: ‘Knocking people off bikes is potentially very dangerous. It shouldn’t be legal for anyone. Police are not above the law.’
The Labour frontbencher, who is MP for Hackney, a borough plagued by moped crime, waded into the debate four days after the police announcement.
Stats released earlier this year show her constituency has seen more than 3,000 moped-enabled crimes in the last five years.
But the Labour party appears to back her views, with a spokesman saying: ‘Major operational changes by the police that affect public and police officer safety need to have clear oversight and follow due process, especially where there is a potential impact for legal ramifications.’
But her comments aroused an angry response from both the public and police, who insisted her interpretation of the law was incorrect.
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation, tweeted: ‘My colleagues are doing the best they can to prevent robberies, violent attacks and muggings. All their decisions will be based on a wide range of information but they need the law to support them. This is very unhelpful.’
Ms Abbott was responding to footage released by police of ‘tactical contact’ stop methods
Victims of moped attacks, and even Labour supporters, said they disagreed with Ms Abbott
Camden Police replied: ‘Someone who’s responsible for law-making (or at least debating and ratifying new legislation) should probably realise that using tactical contact to terminate dangerous pursuits is entirely within our lawful power… And our responsibility.’
Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: ‘Risk-assessed tactical contact is exactly what we need. Criminals are not above the law.’
What is police guidance on ‘tactical contact’?
Police said guidance on the use of vehicles in stopping mopeds is similar to that surrounding the use of force by officers on foot.
Officers are told they can only use force when it is ‘absolutely necessary, reasonable and proportionate’.
Police car drivers have to keep this in mind when deciding whether to crash into a fleeing moped mugger.
Whereas police may have been more reluctant to chase robbers without helmets in previous years, the spike in moped crime has concentrated the minds of Scotland Yard chiefs.
More training for ‘scorpion’ drivers and the increasingly dangerous tactics used by muggers has led to the method being more widely used.
Londoners also defended the police’s new methods and accused Ms Abbott of being ‘on the side of criminals’.
Charlie Mullins, head of Pimlico Plumbers, wrote: ‘It is also dangerous when these moped thieves rob people. Let’s hope when they get knocked off the mopeds they never get on them again, Diana Abbott you need to get a proper job.’
A Twitter user who had witnessed one of the crimes, added: ‘Sorry Diane, you’re wrong on this one. I’ve seen them mount the pavement to rob people while wearing bandanas and no helmets. They’re a nuisance and they’re breaking the law. If they don’t stop when requested to by the law then they’ll have to be stopped forcibly!’
The Met revealed on Friday that specially-trained drivers are tipping criminals on to the ground or on to the bonnets of their cars to get them off the streets.
Extraordinary dashcam footage showed suspects being sent flying into the air, with one telling officers: ‘I took my helmet off so I thought you’d stop chasing me.’
Scotland Yard said the tough new tactics cut crimes linked to two-wheeled machines by a third, from 19,000 offences to 12,500.
They are being rolled out across the country to stop mopeds being the transport of choice for reckless career criminals with no regard of the law.
Some areas of London saw the number of moped crimes increase three-fold last year
Force chiefs have said there is no maximum speed for police cars to hit mopeds, and that it is a common misconception among moped thieves that officers will end their pursuit if the suspect drives dangerously or removes their helmet.
Commander Amanda Pearson said: ‘Offenders on mopeds and motorcycles who attempt to evade the police are making a choice that puts themselves and others at risk.
‘So our message is clear: We can, we will and we do target those involved in moped and motorcycle crime at every opportunity.’
The new tactics have however led to police groups calling for protection for officers who use ‘tactical contact’ in high speed chases.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, asked: ‘Will they be backed? Or will they be left to the mercy of the courts? Will their livelihood and liberty be put at risk? Because that is the reality and our major concern.’
Shadow Home Secretary’s history of struggling with police issues
Yesterday’s tweet is not the first time Ms Abbott has angered police with her comments on Twitter.
Earlier this year, she accused officers of ‘poisoning’ relations with the community by using a ‘disproportionate level of force against young black men’.
Her comments, made in response to a video of a man being arrested during an investigation into a stabbing, were branded ‘inflammatory’ by Police Federation chairman John Apter.
Steve Treharne, vice-chairman of South Wales Police Federation, added that it was ‘easy [for her] to criticise from behind the relative safety of a keyboard’.
Last year, Mrs Abbott was humiliated in a car-crash interview in which she said it would cost just £300,000 to pay for an extra 10,000 police officers.
She later upper this to £80million, but the figure would still have fallen far short and only give each policeman an annual salary of £8,000. The policy is actually costed at £300m a year by 2021/22.
Two months later, she was again asked how she would fund extra police and struggled to say Labour would raise the money.
When asked about the £300m, she said Labour would restore capital gains tax, but could not say how much she would raise. She said the number ‘170’, before looking off-camera to an aide.
In another TV interview last summer, Ms Abbott was asked on Sky News about the Harris Report which gave 127 recommendations to improve London’s ‘readiness’ for terror.
Despite called for the report to be ‘acted upon’, she struggled to remember any of its recommendations.
When she was told the report’s recommendations included merging London’s police forces, she voiced caution about the idea.