Belfast Telegraph

Police officer 'too quick' to use baton on Derry man

An investigation has found that a PSNI officer resorted to using his baton "too quickly" after striking a man several times without warning.

The incident took place in Londonderry city centre last March.

A man was struck several times with a police baton as he restrained his friend during a street disturbance.

Police Ombudsman investigators concluded that the officer had resorted to the use of force too quickly without issuing a warning. They noted that his colleague had not used any force when faced with the same situation.

The man said an officer struck him on the leg four or five times as he was holding his friend in a headlock in an attempt to calm him down after a row with his girlfriend.

The complainant said the officer did not ask what was happening before using unnecessary and excessive force which had caused nerve damage to his leg.

Police Ombudsman investigators reviewed all police documentation about the incident, as well as radio transmissions, city centre CCTV footage and police body worn video recorded by an officer at the scene. Statements were taken from two witnesses.

When interviewed, the officer admitted hitting the man several times but denied assault or using excessive force. He insisted his actions were reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, and said he gave a warning before using his baton.

CCTV footage showed police arriving at the scene and two officers running towards the melee, one with his baton already drawn and extended.

His colleague tried to separate the men, but he immediately used his baton to strike the complainant three times. He told investigators he had done this as the first two strikes had not forced the man to release the headlock.

The baton strikes were not captured on the body worn video footage, but some of the events afterwards were recorded. The man was seen limping and explaining that it had been a fight between friends.

Two witnesses said they had seen the officer strike the man several times, but neither had heard any warning being given. Both felt that the officer’s actions were excessive and said the situation could have been dealt with without such force.

A doctor who examined the man the day after the incident found no evidence of nerve damage.

Following the Police Ombudsman's investigation a performance recommendation was made to the PSNI which has since been acted upon.

PSNI Superintendent Alan Hutton said that the police service and public expect officers "to behave with professionalism at all times".

“Where it is perceived that conduct falls short of these high standards, it is right that officers should face an impartial, thorough enquiry by the Police Ombudsman’s office. Where learning regarding future actions can be gained, these are taken forward.

“PSNI cooperated fully with the Ombudsman's investigation and their recommendations have now been implemented."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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