Dave Turtle, speaking on behalf of the London Christian Police Family, spoke after the controversial arrest of an evangelist outside Southgate Underground Station in north London last Saturday afternoon.
A former deputy chair of the Christian Police Association, he told Premier: “There needs to be a fundamental review of training for faith issues across all police service because…we’ve had a number of situations across the country where street preachers have been arrested and then de-arrested.”
Yesterday, Premier reported how the Metropolitan Police’s local Professional Standards Unit was reviewing the incident after a complaint was received.
According to the force, Olu was detained briefly “to prevent a breach of the peace” after “concerns” were raised about his behaviour. He was later de-arrested.
Sergeant Turtle continued: “If a member of the public is complaining about a street preacher, that officer…has a duty to explain to that member of the public what that street preacher’s rights actually are.
“It’s not for us to arrest every street preacher or every Christian expressing their justified view of their faith in a public place.”
Footage of the incident, which has been seen more than 2.3 million times on Twitter, does not reveal what Olu said while he was preaching. But a police officer accuses him of being “racist”.
Sergeant Turtle said the law protects both the rights of members of the public and street preachers.
He added: “Commenting on other cases around the country, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the Public Order Act in terms of dealing with members of the public [who complain about street preachers].”
Olu has been receiving legal advice from the Christian Legal Centre.
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Efforts must be ramped up to ensure police officers understand the rights of street preachers, a sergeant with 24-years’ experience has told Premier.