The Independent Police Complaints Commission (recently rebranded as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)) has upheld a man’s complaint that he was unreasonably arrested by police officers in Leather Lane, London for stealing a bicycle in February 2016.
The IOPC report directly criticises the Metropolitan Police officers for apparently ignoring the ethnicity of the suspect in the detailed description given to them over police radio and acting with unconscious bias.
Three male police officers and one female officer in a Camden plain clothes cycle theft operation were alerted around 6pm that a white man wearing a light green jacket and blue jeans had stolen a silver bike in the area.
Despite the actual thief standing near to a group of bike couriers chatting after work, the officers instead grabbed 47-year-old Andrew Okorodudu, who is black, wearing a grey jacket, when he joined the group on his white bike. They then threw him to the ground and restrained him with handcuffs as the thief watched and then rode off on the stolen bike.
As a result, Mr Okorodudu suffered injuries to his head, legs, knees and wrists and needed medical treatment at the scene. The injuries to his knees has caused Mr Okorodudu ongoing problems.
The IOPC interceded in the complaint against the police to twice overrule internal recommendations that no investigation of misconduct was necessary. The officers maintained that despite the details contained within the description, they did not hear the ethnicity of the suspect.
The IOPC described as ‘concerning’ that the officers clearly heard the description of the suspect’s clothes but said they did not know his ethnicity. Their claim was undermined by records in their notebooks that included that the suspect was white.
Following a review of CCTV footage, it also dismissed the officers’ excuses that the lighting was poor and that Mr Okorodudu behaved aggressively and resisted arrest. Footage shows that a female officer, PC Patel, failed to speak to Mr Okorodudu but had simply arrived at the scene and grabbed him.
The IOPC disagreed with the police’s report of the situation; they concluded that the situation quickly got out of hand and that the force used by the officers was excessive and unreasonable. It also said that the officers should have known Mr Okorodudu did not match the suspect’s description and that his arrest was unreasonable.
The outcome of the eventual misconduct hearing in November last year was that three of the officers had no case to answer, but that PC Patel had failed to obtain an IC code (ethnicity) which contributed to unconscious bias. PC Patel received management advice as a sanction.
Mr Okorodudu recently received a four-figure settlement from the Metropolitan Police Service. Joanna Bennett from London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen who represented Mr Okorodudu said, however, that the apology Mr Okorodudu received from the police was ‘half-hearted’.
“Despite all the initiatives and training to stamp out racial bias, it clearly still exists within the police force. Despite the obvious description of the suspect as white, the first officer on the scene instead immediately targets a black man and then uses excessive force to arrest him.
“Mr Okorodudu has since received damages for his ordeal but the apology from the police was half-hearted to say the least.
“What is equally concerning is that the police’s own investigation concluded that the officers had done nothing wrong. It was only when the IOPC reviewed the evidence and issued a directive for a misconduct hearing that they were called to task over their behaviour.”