Complaint about arrest of boy with water pistol to be independently investigated

Published: 20 Oct 2023

The IOPC has reconsidered its decision not to independently investigate a complaint about an incident where armed police were deployed to a boy who was playing with a water pistol with his sister.

We initially said the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) should investigate the complaint themselves, but following the concerns raised by the boy’s mother, and to provide additional assurance to the wider community, we will now independently investigate.

IOPC Regional Director for London Charmaine Arbouin said: “This was clearly a distressing incident for this boy, his sister and mother and it is right that the complaint is investigated.

“We don’t have the resources to investigate all complaints that are sent to us by the police so when they make a referral we decide if the force should investigate it themselves or if we should take it on. 

“Those decisions can sometimes be very finely balanced and that is what happened in this case. When the referral came to us initially, we took into account a number of factors when we decided the Met should investigate. 

“This included doing what we believed was right for the family as we understood that their preference was to get it resolved with the force itself without involving us, and that the Met were comfortable with this. We were also confident, and remain confident, that the Met were taking the complaint seriously.”

When the MPS referred the complaint to us a second time, which included new allegations of race discrimination and adultification, the family requested that we should take it on, however we decided it should still remain with the MPS. Throughout the process we stressed to the family that if they were unhappy with the outcome of the MPS’s investigation they had the right to have it reviewed by us. 

Charmaine added: “In the light of the mother’s statement yesterday, and the concerns that have been expressed by the local community in Hackney and more widely we’ve reconsidered our decision and will now investigate this independently.  We’ve spoken to the Met and they understand our decision to investigate this independently will enhance transparency.

“We appreciate how upsetting this has been for the family and I hope this will provide assurance to the child’s mother’s that she has been heard. We know that incidents like these also have an impact within policing as well as the wider community, so we will do all we can to conduct this investigation quickly and thoroughly, and will provide updates as it progresses.”

The incident occurred in July in Hackney when the boy was playing with his sister and was seen by a police officer who mistook the water pistol for a firearm.

Armed police were called who forced the boy off his bike and arrested him. Once it became clear he was a child with a toy, he was dearrested by police.

The MPS has apologised to the family for the distress the incident caused.

Update - 10/11/23 - We have amended this release to make clear that at the time of the second referral the family had asked that we take on the investigation.

  • Metropolitan Police Service
  • Use of force and armed policing