A POLICEMAN has been warned about his future conduct by force bosses over a Union Jack inside a patrol vehicle.

The officer received "words of advice" after the postcard-sized flag was spotted by a colleague while they were working at a Blackburn Rovers football match.

The policeman has since been transferred from his base at Great Harwood to Blackburn police station but the force denied the move had been a disciplinary measure.

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said emblems should not be displayed in police vehicles because of the inferences which could be drawn from them.

But racial equality campaigners said in normal circumstances a ban on flags could only be justified if they posed a risk to public order.

It is understood that the flag was on the grille behind the driver's seat of a police van at the Worthington Cup tie against Rotherham, at Ewood Park on December 4.

Senior officers were understood to be concerned about the potential political inference which Asian officers and the public could have drawn from the display.

Det Chief Insp Neil Smith, of Blackburn Police, said: "It's common practice for officers to change duties, particularly within the division.

"But I can confirm the police officer has been seconded to Blackburn from Great Harwood. He had recently been spoken to following concerns by a colleague who had seen a Union Jack flag displayed in a police vehicle at a football match."

Steve Edwards, chairman of Lancashire Police Federation said he had no knowledge of the particular case because the officer concerned had not complained.

But he added: "If it's a marked police car we certainly don't encourage people to fly any sort of emblem in them.

"We are supposed to be impartial, we are not allowed to show allegiance to any political party, union or anything. That's why we are not allowed a union ourselves.

"It's a police vehicle first and foremost and the only sort of promotion allowed is through sponsorship and partnership."

Hyndburn MP Greg Pope said: "In the end this is a matter for the police but I'm a bit concerned -- it seems a bit over the top or a little heavy handed in what was seemingly meant to be light hearted."

Great Harwood councillor Wyn Frankland said: "It's political correctness. It seems an over-reaction but I don't think he was in the right to do it."

A spokesperson for the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said: "The CRE does not support bans on the display of flags as this could be contrary to a person's right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act 1998.

"To justify a ban, the display of flags would have to pose a real risk to public order."