Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Investigation finds no case to answer over knee strike by Met officer

An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation found that a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer had no case to answer over his use of force on a man who was stopped and searched in London after making off on a bike.

Our investigation followed a complaint by a woman who filmed part of the incident in Hackney on 22 April last year. The 25-second clip was publicised by media at the time and showed an officer carrying out a knee strike to the man’s head after he had been taken to the ground and handcuffs were being applied.

Officers in an unmarked car had activated their blue lights and siren, and then caught up with the man in Mulberry Road after he and two others made off on bicycles when approached in an area known for gang-related crime.

Our nine-month investigation began in June following an MPS referral of a complaint by a woman who witnessed the incident and recorded some of it on her mobile phone. She complained about the police use of force and that the line manager of the officers involved had made racially stereotypical assumptions when she later contacted the force to report her concerns.

From our enquiries we concluded there was insufficient evidence upon which a misconduct panel could conclude that the officer had breached professional standards for his use of force when he delivered the knee strike. The officer said he targeted the shoulder area but made contact with the man’s face while he was resisting. We could not establish from the footage alone whether the man had been resisting during the incident, and we were unable to contact and obtain an account from him.

In our view, the officers had reasonable grounds to approach the group from the briefing they had received beforehand, and to believe they might be in possession of weapons and drugs when they made off. In the event nothing was found on the man they detained.

We considered if racial bias played any part in the officers’ actions but could not conclude that the group, or the man detained, had been targeted on that basis. There was no evidence that their ethnicity was noticed by the officers, who said it was dark and that the group were wearing hoodies.

However, we did find that a remark made by the officers’ supervisor to the complainant, suggesting that the man detained ‘would be used to police interaction’, could contribute to negative stereotyping of young black men. The force agreed this was a performance issue and addressed it with the officer concerned.   

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “We recognise the detrimental impact incidents like this can have on public confidence in policing, especially when there is only a partial picture of what happened – in this case through a short mobile phone clip. That’s why it was important for us to thoroughly investigate the circumstances. Based on all the information available to us we could not conclude that the officer had a case to answer over his use of force.

“Although we also found no evidence of racial profiling by the officers, one view expressed by their line manager did indicate a lack of awareness or sensitivity when dealing with issues involving stereotyping  of young black men. We will continue to challenge such negative perceptions.”

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