EXCLUSIVE: It was ‘off the buses’ for London’s ticket inspectors for a week after the flashpoint when a black mum was handcuffed in front of her child on Whitehorse Road, while the police watchdog is appealling for witnesses
Transport for London suspended its ticket-checking operations on buses across the capital for seven days after the incident on Whitehorse Road, Croydon, last month, when a black mother was arrested and hand-cuffed on suspicion of fare dodging in front of her sobbing son. The woman was later “unarrested” and released without charge.
Inside Croydon has learned that the decision to suspend work by the bus network’s Revenue Protection Inspectors was discussed at a meeting involving the Croydon BME Forum that was held on July 26, just days after the incident which many feared might inflame anger within the black and minority ethnic community.
Police officers were working with TfL tickets inspectors when the woman was handcuffed.
The incident, which at least one passers-by video’d, led to the Metropolitan Police referring itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which yesterday issued an appeal for witnesses to come forward.
The question which remains unanswered, publicly, is why the woman refused to show the ticket inspector her ticket or pass when requested.
The footage of the mother shouting as the two officers handcuffed her provoked widespread criticism of the Met, who said the video was a “snapshot” of the incident but admitted “trust had taken a hit”.
IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “We know that footage widely shared on social media does not show the full incident and we are working to piece together all of the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
“Therefore, it’s important that we speak with anyone who witnessed any part of this incident and that we gather all relevant footage that may assist our investigation.”
The police watchdog says that the Met’s referral alleges that the woman was “racially profiled and verbally abused by an officer”.
The Met said the woman left the bus after not complying with a revenue inspector’s request to check that she had paid the £1.75 fare.
According to the Met, she attempted to walk off and became “abusive” when asked to stop.
In the video, she repeatedly asks one of the officers to let go and says: “I haven’t done anything wrong,” while a member of the public films what is happening and asks why she is being arrested.
Once officers confirmed she had paid, she was unhandcuffed and released.
The IOPC says that they want to hear from any passengers on the 157 bus to Morden on Friday July 21, when it stopped on Whitehorse Road shortly after 11.10am.
“Anyone who witnessed this incident, or has footage which may assist, is urged to contact us by emailing email@example.com or phoning 0300 303 5731 and leaving a message with your name and contact number,” they said.
Investigators have secured officers’ body-worn footage, which is currently being reviewed, and CCTV footage from the bus. They are carrying out house-to-house enquiries in the immediate area to identify any potential witnesses and are making further CCTV enquiries.
The community meeting in Croydon last week where the incident was discussed was attended by more than 30 people including the Met’s Borough Commander, Andy Brittain, DCS Christina Jessah, who heads the Met’s roads and transport command, as well as Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones and Florence Eshalomi, the MP for Vauxhall. The meeting was chaired by local businessman Anthony King, with Andrew Brown, the CEO of Croydon BME Forum, also involved.
The meeting was held “to ensure the voice of the community is heard and, most importantly, listened to”.
In a note circulated to attendees, which has been seen by Inside Croydon, King and Brown wrote, “We want to continue to work with the police and make sure our voices are part of the conversation and the solution.”
The meeting was broadly critical of the Met’s communications issued immediately after the incident, with the police saying that the wording used in its publicly issued statements, which did do much to inflame anger around the incident, would not be used in future.
Croydon’s police engagement panel also met last week to view the bodycam footage from the incident. At the meeting, the Met gave an undertaking to review officers’ training for incidents involving children.
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