A Met Police constable is being investigated for potential criminal offences related to racially aggravated assault and false imprisonment following the controversial arrest in Croydon in July of a black woman when she had a valid ticket to travel on a London bus.
The officer is also being investigated for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct.
The officer is currently on restricted duties, but has not been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Video of the incident, which showed the woman and her young son in great distress at a bus stop on Whitehorse Road, went viral on social media.
Sources have advised Inside Croydon that following this incident, Transport for London suspended all fare evasion checks on its buses across the capital for several weeks; in Croydon, the fare checks were suspended for longer still.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has this afternoon released a statement which revealed that the incident was submitted to them for investigation by the police in Croydon after the Met had received a complaint from the woman’s family alleging racial profiling and verbal abuse by an officer. The woman subsequently submitted a further complaint of her own.
The Met’s version of events is that the incident happened on July 21 when a PC and a PCSO from the Roads and Transport Policing Command “were supporting Transport for London revenue inspectors in the area. TfL inspectors were checking tickets as part of their fare evasion operation, with police only becoming involved where details were not provided or where someone tried to leave when challenged”.
The Met says: “The woman involved in this incident was asked to provide her ticket after she got off the bus, but did not do so. She was spoken to by a TfL inspector, then by a PCSO and finally by a police officer. She continued to try to walk away and did not provide her ticket for inspection.
“She was arrested on suspicion of fare evasion and was handcuffed.” The handcuffs were removed after it was confirmed she had paid the fare.
The IOPC said today: “Our investigation began following a complaint referral from the MPS three days later. The complaint, which was made by a family member on the woman’s behalf, alleged that she was racially profiled and verbally abused by an officer.
“During our investigation we have received further complaints from the woman involved relating to the treatment she and her son received during the incident.”
The IOPC says that it is investigating “the actions of MPS officers and staff during their interactions with the woman and her son”.
- the decision to arrest the woman
- whether the force used was reasonable, necessary and proportionate
- whether the woman and her son were treated differently because of their race
- whether the woman was treated differently because of her sex
The IOPC said: “We have secured and reviewed evidence including officers’ body worn video footage and CCTV footage from the bus the woman exited shortly before her arrest. IOPC investigators have also obtained accounts from the woman involved and police staff present and will be speaking with the Transport for London inspectors.
“An MPS constable has recently been advised that they are being investigated for potential criminal offences related to racially aggravated assault and false imprisonment. The officer is also being investigated for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct.”
IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “The decision to conduct a criminal investigation is not something we take lightly and was made after careful consideration of the material we have gathered to date, including liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“It’s important to emphasise that this development does not necessarily mean that criminal charges or disciplinary proceedings will follow.
“At the conclusion of the investigation, we will decide whether to refer a file of evidence to the CPS for a charging decision and also decide whether any officers should face disciplinary proceedings.
“Representatives for the woman and the officer have been advised of this update and we will keep them informed throughout our investigation.”
Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain, the Borough Commander in Croydon, today maintained that the Met’s referral of the case to the IOPC was “voluntary”.
“This incident caused a great deal of concern in the community when it happened and when a video showing part of the events was shared on social media. The incident was clearly distressing for the woman involved and particularly her child.”
Chief Super Brittain said that his officers are “co-operating fully with the investigation”.
He said: “It is important the incident is thoroughly investigated to understand what happened. As the IOPC has stated, the launching of a criminal or misconduct investigation is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing and we await its conclusions after all the available evidence has been gathered and fully examined.”
In a statement issued from Scotland Yard, the Met said: “Throughout the incident, the child was comforted by a PCSO who immediately recognised his distress. We regret any impact it may have on him.”
The IOPC said: “We continue to appeal for any witnesses to contact our investigation team by emailing email@example.com or phoning 0300 303 5731 and leaving a message with your name and contact number.”
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