Essex Police have denied being directly reprimanded by Suella Braverman for sending five officers to seize a collection of dolls which are considered racist from a pub.
The officers took several golliwogs from the White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex, on April 4, as part of an investigation into an allegation of hate crime reported on February 24.
A source close to the Home Secretary said her unhappiness at the incident had been passed on to the force, as first reported by the Mail Online.
The outlet quoted a Home Office source as saying police forces “should not be getting involved in this kind of nonsense” and instead focus on “catching criminals”.
A team of four officers and one tutee attended the pub last week after a report of someone being racially harassed, alarmed or distressed by the presence of the rag dolls, which are based on 18th century minstrels and now regarded as racist caricatures.
Owner Benice Ryley said she has displayed the collection of around 30 dolls, donated by her late aunt and customers, in the pub for nearly 10 years.
She told the PA news agency: “They’re my childhood history, it’s a part of our inheritance. I can’t see any harm.
“I really am angry because what they’ve taken away is valuable.”
Mrs Ryley hit back at allegations of racism, saying the pub frequently hosts Indian weddings, and said she does not understand how people could be offended by the dolls.
“If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come through the door.”
No arrests have been made, with Mrs Ryley’s husband Chris set to be questioned when he returns from abroad in May.
Ms Braverman’s reported intervention comes after she last week drew criticism for singling out British Pakistani men over grooming gang concerns, despite government research finding no clear link between gang members and ethnicity.
The Home Secretary, who once railed against the “tofu-eating wokerati”, is regarded as a divisive figure for her remarks on migration and “culture war” issues.
Essex Police said in a statement on Monday: “We are investigating an allegation of a hate crime in Grays.
“The report was made to us on February 24 after a member of the public reported being distressed after attending a venue off Argent Street.
“The investigation is being carried out under Section 4(a) of the Public Order Act 1986 and Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
“We have regularly discussed the progression of this case with the Crown Prosecution Service and on Tuesday April 4, five officers visited a location off Argent Street, Grays, and seized several items in connection with that investigation.
“No-one has been arrested or charged in connection with the investigation and our inquiries are ongoing.
“We are aware some elements of the media have reported that Essex Police has been contacted directly by the Home Secretary in relation to this investigation.
“At the time of writing, this is categorically not true. As a result, we would ask all media reporting this to amend their news reports immediately.
“In addition, as is the case in all investigations across every police force, we maintain operational independence from the Home Office which ensures that every investigation is carried out without fear or favour.”