Officer helped resolve land dispute, but acted insensitively by clapping

Published Date: 28.11.2013

A police officer who helped oversee the successful resolution to a long-standing land dispute was nevertheless found to have acted insensitively by clapping at one stage of the operation.

The officer had been called out to deal with a report that a landowner was being prevented from clearing his field of items – including old cars, a caravan and a lorry container – which belonged to a neighbour.

The landowner had been granted a court injunction authorising the removal of the items, but reported that his neighbour’s family were preventing him from doing so.

After negotiating between the two parties, the officer secured agreement that the owner of the items would remove them from the field.

A forklift driver was called to assist and the field was eventually cleared, despite difficulty at one stage manoeuvring the lorry container out of the field.

The owner of the items later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office, claiming that the officer had been one-sided in his handling of the situation. In particular, he said that when the lorry container was successfully removed from the field, the officer clapped his hands and cheered.

When interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officer accepted that he had clapped his hands a few times, but only as an acknowledgement of the skill of the forklift driver in achieving a difficult task. He also said he had shaken the driver’s hand in congratulations. The officer denied that this gesture had been intended to annoy or antagonise the complainant.

Having examined the evidence relating to the incident, the Police Ombudsman concluded that although the officer had overseen the resolution of a difficult situation and had acted to keep the peace, clapping was insensitive in the context of the dispute between two parties.

The officer has since been the subject of informal discipline for his handling of this part of the situation.

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