Published Date: 01.04.2014
A police officer who was investigated by the Police Ombudsman’s Office after being accused of dealing with a member of the public in an aggressive manner has been disciplined by the PSNI.
A man complained to the Ombudsman about the way he had been treated by a police officer while he was being questioned by him for a road traffic offence. He alleged that the officer repeatedly asked him whether he had points on his licence and asked numerous times how he could afford the vehicle he was driving. He felt that this type of questioning into his personal life, which he alleged was done rudely and aggressively, was unnecessary and inappropriate and that the officer acted unprofessionally.
After taking the details of the complaint from the driver the Office obtained a statement from the passenger of the vehicle. This account of what happened supported that of the complainant.
Complaint upheld on balance of probabilities.
The area where the incident took place was checked for CCTV cameras. Footage from a number of cameras was analysed but none of them covered the specific spot where it happened.
Two police officers were identified as being present at the incident. The officer who questioned the man was interviewed by Ombudsman investigators. He stated that he first noticed the man’s car at a set of traffic lights with the engine revving loudly. When the lights changed he accelerated away quickly. The next set of traffic lights were at red, yet the officer stated that the car drifted at about 5 miles per hour through the cycle box and beyond the stop line before coming to a halt.
He said he decided to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice to the driver because of the breach of a red traffic signal and because of the excessive noise from the car. He stated that he was polite with the driver and did not ask inappropriate questions.
The officer’s colleague also provided an account to the Office. He said he could see the two men in discussion and while he admitted that he was unable to hear the conversation it did not seem to him as though there was any serious disagreement between them.
In cases such as this where there is conflicting evidence, the Ombudsman needs to make a decision based on the balance of probabilities. In this case it was decided after considering a range of factors that the complaint should be upheld.
The Office therefore recommended that disciplinary action should be taken against the police officer, which the PSNI subsequently carried out.