Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
West Yorkshire Police officer dismissed after IOPC investigation
A West Yorkshire Police officer who goaded a man, used excessive force during his arrest and then made false and misleading statements about the incident has been dismissed without notice following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
At a police misconduct hearing, which concluded recently (24 September 2021), the actions of PC James Topp on 3 July 2020 were judged by the panel to have amounted to gross misconduct.
While he and a colleague were at the Bradford Cyrenians shelter for homeless men on an unrelated matter, a verbal altercation began involving former PC Topp and the man.
We independently investigated two complaints from members of staff at the shelter and also considered the officer’s actions later that day at the custody suite in relation to the man and other detainees. It was alleged that former PC Topp had antagonised the man, used excessive force and also used offensive language towards the shelter staff.
We reviewed CCTV from the shelter and the custody suite, as well as body-worn video footage from attending officers. Investigators interviewed the officer and obtained statements from other police officers and staff, as well as witnesses from the shelter. We also obtained an account from the arrested man.
During his interaction with the man, PC Topp pushed him and forced him to the ground. We found no evidence to justify his use of force. We also found he showed a lack of respect to staff who challenged his actions, raising his voice and calling one an ‘idiot’.
We found the officer made misleading or inaccurate statements following the incident when he initially claimed he had been assaulted by the man, who was arrested for assault of an emergency worker and racially aggravated public disorder but later released without charge, before PC Topp restrained him. This was not supported by CCTV evidence.
We also looked at PC Topp’s conduct towards the man and two other detainees at the custody suite. He used antagonising and derogatory language towards all three. We also found evidence of inappropriate references to physical violence towards the detainees.
Our investigation concluded in December and we shared our findings with the force and the complainants.
PC Topp was found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour for honesty and integrity in relation to the misleading statements. This was judged at the level of gross misconduct.
He was also found to have breached the standards, amounting to misconduct, in respect of: authority, respect and courtesy; and use of force. His overall conduct on that day was also judged to have breached the standards for discreditable conduct.
IOPC Regional Director Miranda Biddle recently said:
“This officer showed appalling judgement and there was evidence of a clear pattern of unacceptable behaviour on that day. Rather than de-escalating the situation, he repeatedly aggravated matters with his actions and unprofessional approach.
“His conduct fell far below the standards expected of a police officer and clearly had the potential to seriously damage public confidence in the police.
“We are grateful to all those who assisted our investigation, which has led to his dismissal and will ensure he cannot work for the police again in future.”
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