Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
Kent Police officer given final written warning after gross misconduct hearing
A Kent Police officer has been given a final written warning after being found guilty of gross misconduct, following our investigation.
Police Sergeant Melwyn Moore faced seven allegations for the way in which a suspect was treated in custody at the directed hearing which concluded on 12 February 2020.
The case was proven against six of the allegations. They were:
- being discourteous to a man when booking in to custody
- failing to get sufficient information about the man to make a risk assessment
- leaving the man handcuffed in the prone position in a locked cell alone following complaints the man could not breathe
- inaccurately recording how the man had been left in the cell
- inaccurately recording the use of force
- creating a post on social media where he referred to the man in a derogatory manner.
A seventh allegation of using excessive force against the man in custody was not proven. The misconduct panel decided the six proven allegations taken together amounted to gross misconduct and that PS Moore would be given a final written warning.
The man who made the complaint had been taken into Tonbridge Police Station on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly on 31 December 2016. While in his cell, officers tried to remove his jacket and a restraint followed.
He was charged with being drunk and disorderly and of assaulting two officers – including PS Moore. All the charges were dismissed at a later magistrates’ court hearing.
Following the criminal proceedings, Kent Police made a referral to the IOPC where we began our independent investigation, interviewed PS Moore under caution, examined witness accounts from officers and viewed CCTV.
It showed how PS Moore was rude to the man when booking him into custody, and carried out no risk assessment, and did not provide him with his rights – and this set in motion a chain of events with poor decision-making that ended with him writing a derogatory post on social media about the man.
The CCTV evidence showed several officers restrained the suspect and PS Moore kicked him, although the panel decided this was not excessive force. All officers then left him lying in his cell, handcuffed to the rear, in a prone position. Footage showed the man reported to be struggling to breathe on three occasions and a police constable twice suggested that he should be moved. PS Moore directed the police officer to not move the man and leave him handcuffed.
Afterwards, he then made inaccurate claims in his statement of events which the IOPC felt brought into doubt his honesty and integrity. PS Moore’s inaccurate statement was found by the hearing to be unprofessional or poor completion of paperwork rather than intentionally dishonest.
We completed our investigation in May 2019 and found PS Moore had a case to answer for both gross misconduct and misconduct in respect of the seven allegations. Kent Police agreed with the case to answer of gross misconduct for two allegations, one allegation of misconduct and disagreed with the other four allegations. Where Kent Police disagreed, we directed them to arrange a hearing.
It concluded on 12 February 2020 and the panel ruled the case was proven.
IOPC Regional Director Sarah Green, said:
“Our investigation - which included examining CCTV footage of the incident in question - and the subsequent independent misconduct hearing gave a clear insight as to what happened in the Tonbridge custody suite on 31 December 2016.
“The independent panel has agreed this was a serious breach of professional standards and that his conduct across the whole incident fell well short of what would be expected of a custody sergeant.
“Looking after the welfare of detainees and working professionally to engage with detainees who wish to raise matters of concern at the booking-in desk is a fundamental requirement of good custody practice.
“The officer chose to be dismissive and dis-courteous. Matters then deteriorated which led to the events in the cell.
“This case highlights the benefit of an independent body appropriately using its powers to require a hearing so that officers can properly be held to account for their actions before a disciplinary panel.”
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