Alleged excessive use of force to detain man after vehicle stop – Metropolitan Police Service, November 2022
In November 2022, a car failed to stop following an indication to do so from an unmarked police car. The decision to stop the car was led by a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) operation to tackle gang violence in the area. The police officers pursued the car and drove partially on the pavement and into a cycle lane, mirroring the actions of the driver who attempted to evade police contact.
The man’s car collided with a van which led him to exit the car and flee on foot. The officers pursued the man and caught up with him after he fell to the pavement. A struggle ensued in an attempt to detain and arrest the man. The officers used force including baton strikes, punches and kicks. The police sergeant delivered multiple kicks in the direction of the man’s head, neck and shoulders. A member of the public filmed the method of restraint and circulated this on social media.
We investigated whether officers acted with due regard to national and local legislation, policy and guidelines, and specifically:
- an officer’s driving while following the man
- the circumstances and proportionality of the force used by a police sergeant
- the sergeant’s failure to activate body worn video during the incident
- the accuracy of the sergeant’s statement in relation to use of force against the man
- whether the man was treated any differently by police officers due to his ethnicity.
During our investigation, we appealed for CCTV footage and examined all available video evidence. We obtained and analysed statements from witnesses.
We served the police sergeant with a misconduct notice and criminally investigated him for common assault.
Our investigation concluded in May 2023, but we waited for all external proceedings to conclude before publishing our findings.
We concluded there was an indication that a police officer may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence.
We sent a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who did not charge the officer with any offence.
We concluded the police sergeant had a case to answer for misconduct in respect of two allegations and should attend a misconduct meeting.
We were of the opinion the delivery of a kick to the man’s upper neck and head area may not have been proportionate or reasonable in respect of the substantially reduced risk posed by the man in that moment; a Taser was drawn and at least three officers were contributing to his restraint.
We commented it was reckless for the sergeant to deploy a kick to an area of the body that is noted in MPS training as carrying a high probability of causing serious injury or death.
Additionally, we were of the opinion that the sergeant did not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why his body worn footage was not on, with a secondary concern that he was reliant on the video footage from another officer to capture his own actions. The MPS policy clearly states officers must engage their body worn video during operational activities during arrests. It further states plain clothes officers need to have it readily available.
The MPS fully agreed with our findings and stated this was not a performance matter suitable for a performance related improvement process but a disciplinary matter where proceedings should be brought in the form of a misconduct meeting.
A misconduct meeting was held on 30 August 2023, where the allegations were not proven.
The force used was justified and considered to have a legitimate objective. The findings concluded there was no alternative means available and although it involved a high-risk area, the force stopped as soon as the sergeant achieved his intended aim to detain the man.
Whilst it was accepted that the policy for body worn video was breached, the conclusion was that it did not amount to misconduct and it was an isolated incident.
The misconduct meeting concluded the most appropriate outcome would be reflective practice. A discussion was held between the sergeant and his line manager in September 2023.
An officer reflecting on their actions is a formal process reflected in legislation. The reflective practice review process consists of a fact-finding stage and a discussion stage, followed by the production of a reflective review development report. The discussion must include:
- a discussion of the practice requiring improvement and related circumstances that have been identified, and
- the identification of key lessons to be learnt by the participating officer, line management or police force concerned, to address the matter and prevent a reoccurrence of the matter.
We carefully considered whether there were any learning opportunities arising from the investigation. We make learning recommendations to improve policing and public confidence in the police complaints system and prevent a recurrence of similar incidents.
In this case, there was no identified organisational learning.