Policeman removed from arrest scene spared sacking
An angry police officer who was taken off an arrest after shouting and balling his fist in the face of a suspected knife-point robber has kept his job.
Pc Daniel Hitchmough accepted telling the male "when police tell you to stop, you f****** stop" as he was being detained on the ground by other officers.
But Hitchmough denied the accounts of two former colleagues that he balled his fist against the suspect's head, "rocking it" back, as he continued shouting at him.
In the words of one officer, Hitchmough - described as "a big lad" - had to be moved away by another officer "before it escalated further".
Hitchmough was in front of a West Midlands Police disciplinary panel on Wednesday accused of gross misconduct over the incident in Great Barr Street, Birmingham, just before midnight on June 10, 2014.
The suspect had been CS-sprayed by another officer after reports he was involved in a street robbery.
Hitchmough arrived at the scene on a bicycle as four other colleagues were restraining the suspect face-down on the ground.
One of the officers, Pc Matthew Whitehouse, described Hitchmough's deamenour, and said: "He seemed very angry and agitated at the person."
He added: "Pc Hitchmough was very upset, he made it clear to the offender 'when police tell you to stop, you f****** stop'."
In his statement from the time, Pc Whitehouse said Hitchmough "pushed his fist into the side of the man's head".
That account was backed up by Pc Richard Adams, now with British Transport Police, who said he thought Hitchmough had rocked the suspect's head back "about three times".
However, another officer Sgt Alex Roobottom told the panel Hitchmough had only been pointing his index finger in the suspect's face - but he was concerned enough to move his colleague away from the scene.
Lawyers for Hitchmough said he accepted swearing at the suspect and being aggressive, amounting to misconduct, but denied gross misconduct.
Pc Whitehouse, now with West Mercia Police, said: "Roobottom moved him from the area to calm him down, before it escalated any further."
While being booked into custody, the suspect was recorded on CCTV telling an officer "I wouldn't say he punched me, he forced his hand into my face".
Giving the panel's decision, chairman Steven Evans said Hitchmough, who has three service commendations, had an "exemplary" record of seven years with the West Midlands force but had behaved "recklessly".
Finding Hitchmough had balled his fist in the suspect's face, he said: "We are driven to conclude this behaviour does amount to gross misconduct."
The panel, which could have sacked the officer, also heard from Hitchmough's lawyer Harpreet Sandhu who said: "We don't accept he's the perfect officer - but he will be, given the chance."
Instead, the panel spared Hitchmough an immediate sacking and ordered instead he be given an 18-month final written notice.
Mr Evans told the officer: "It has, to quote the Iron Duke (of Wellington), been a close run thing."