A police force apologised after being criticised for launching a competition to name one of their horses after black pioneers of a historic protest.
Avon and Somerset Police had intended to rename a horse as part of the city’s 60th anniversary commemorations of the Bristol Bus Boycott.
But the competition, which has now been withdrawn, sparked a backlash from some in the black community.
In a petition calling it to be scrapped, Black Think Tank UK wrote: "We reject police officers riding our black heroes!"
It labelled the competition, which was to rename trainee PH Brutus, as divisive, and warned it could strain relations between the police and the black community.
A spokesperson said: "We know of no black hero that wanted to be ridden by a police officer."
Avon and Somerset Police and the Curiosity UnLtd think tank have now both apologised for setting up the initiative and said they did not intend to cause any offence.
Individuals and schools across the city were invited to vote in the online poll from 11 September for four weeks, choosing their favourite name.
They sought permission from the families of the pioneers to include names PH Hackett, PH Bailey, PH Henry, PH Prince, PH Audley, PH Singh, PH Barbara and PH Norman.
The petition stated: "Can you imagine the outrage and indignation that would erupt if the Montgomery police dared to disgrace the legacy of Rosa Parks by naming a police horse after her?"
It added: "By signing this petition and sharing it widely, we aim to send a message that true progress requires substantive change, not just symbolic gestures.
"We, the undersigned, believe in the importance of honouring black heroes and their contributions to society.
"However, we feel that naming a police horse after one of these heroes falls short of meaningful recognition in our culture.
The petition continued: "Our heroes deserve greater respect and recognition than being reduced to mere names of an animal controlled by the police force and ridden by a police officer.”
The petition described the lack of cultural sensitivity displayed as "distressing" and urged police to find a more appropriate and respectful tribute.
In response to the criticism, chief inspector Victoria Hayward Melen said: “Our intention had been to honour the pioneers’ achievements and be part of Bristol’s 60th anniversary celebrations marking this momentous civil rights moment.
"However, we are now aware that the competition has caused some distress within our communities, which was wholly unintentional. For this we are truly sorry.
“We are committed to being transparent and accountable to our communities, which means not shying away from admitting where we have got something wrong.
She added: “As part of our Race Matters work we’re currently consulting with our communities on changes to policies and procedures which aim to reduce disproportionality and build back the trust and confidence of people who have been harmed by years of traumatic interactions with the police.
"The learning and feedback we have taken from this situation has only strengthened our resolve and focus to do this work in collaboration with communities we serve.
“The Bristol Bus Boycott pioneers were striving for positive change and we will best honour their legacy by owning our mistakes and committing to a better future.”
A spokesperson for Curiosity UnLtd said: "We recognise that this renaming initiative has caused unintentional distress among some sections of our community; therefore, we unreservedly apologise.
“We have heard, listened and can announce that this horse renaming initative has been withdrawn.
Bristol Bus Boycott
The peaceful boycott of 1963, began in response to the refusal of Bristol Omnibus Company (BOC) to employ Black and Asian people.
The boycott was led by the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association and supported by other local groups, with one of the prime organisers being the late Roy Hackett who died last year.
During the boycott, protesters refused to ride on the Bristol Omnibus Company buses and instead organised their own transportation system.
This system relied on volunteers who used their cars to provide rides to those in need. The boycott gained national attention and received support from prominent figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the British Labour Party.
The boycott lasted for four months and involved an estimated 4,000 people.
Its success is credited with leading to the creation of the 1976 Race Relations Act, now at the heart of the Equalities Act 2010, which legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.