Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
Met officer dismissed without notice after using excessive force on teenage girl
A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer has been dismissed without notice after a police disciplinary panel concluded he used excessive force on a vulnerable 17-year-old girl in East London.
The hearing followed our investigation into a complaint made by an NHS Trust staff member and subsequent complaints from another staff member, and the girl’s mother.
At the independently chaired disciplinary hearing, organised by MPS, it was determined PC Benjamin Kemp, based at MPS’ North East Command, breached police standards of professional behaviour relating to use of force, and authority, respect and courtesy, and that gross misconduct was proven.
The panel heard that the teenager, who has learning disabilities, ran off from a group on an escorted walk in Newham, after becoming distressed on 8 May 2019.
She was near a main road and police were called by a concerned member of the public. The girl also flagged down a passing police car.
Officers’ body-worn video showed the girl told officers she was a vulnerable child with mental health problems. She agreed to get in the police car, but then got out of it.
Officers tried to speak to her and then PC Kemp attempted to handcuff her. When this was unsuccessful, he then used CS spray less than a metre from her face. Police guidelines state it should not be used within a metre unless that is unavoidable. Within seconds he started using his baton and then struck her several times.
When another police unit arrived, the girl was immediately Tasered by an officer from that vehicle.
She was then struck several times more with the baton by PC Kemp, handcuffed and put into a police van. In total she was struck at least 30 times.
The girl was black but there has never been any indication that racial discrimination played a factor in this case. A separate investigation looked at whether there was any discrimination on the part of the officers regarding mental health and disability and there was no indication.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “We found the force used by police in this case was neither reasonable nor proportionate and would be shocking to most people.
“The body worn footage we gathered showed a girl clearly in distress who was subjected to at least 30 baton strikes, had CS spray administered at very close quarters and was then Tasered.
“Police officers are trained to deal with challenging situations and should only use force when it is necessary, proportionate and reasonable.
“The disciplinary panel also found PC Kemp had behaved in a manner which lacked self-control and did not take into account the vulnerable status of the teenager, who appeared very frightened.
“Officers are taught that any contact with members of the public requires good communication skills.
“These may need to be adjusted when dealing with people experiencing mental health problems or who have learning disabilities. In particular, police officers and staff should be aware that communication difficulties are a defining feature of having a learning disability.
“Immediately resorting to use of force without considering other de-escalation tactics, and particularly where the person involved has mental health issues, is of concern.
“PC Kemp’s immediate reaction when the girl exited the police car was to try and handcuff her, even though he didn’t have her under his control.
“The poor communication by this officer got the incident off to a bad start and, once he started to use the baton, he was unable to change tack.”
During our investigation, which took six months, we examined officers’ body worn video, took statements from officers as witnesses and from members of the public. We also sought expert advice on the use of force and, at the end of our investigation, we referred the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided the evidence did not support a criminal prosecution.
Our findings and evidence were provided to MPS in December 2019 and, after discussions with the force, we agreed there was a case to answer for gross misconduct.
Our investigation found that the officer who used the Taser had no case to answer for use of force. However, our investigation did find a case to answer for misconduct for breaching the police standards of authority and respect. The officer showed a lack of respect to the girl and her health carer, who had later turned up at the scene. The force agreed and in August 2020 the officer received management action.
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