Published Date: 16.08.2013
An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police officers did not racially discriminate against a man who was questioned at his place of work about a stolen mobile phone.
The man (Man A), a member of a minority ethnic community, lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office that two police officers had called at his workplace and asked to speak to him on the pretence that he had lost a mobile phone.
Man A said he was taken from his work canteen, in front of his colleagues, to a more private area where he was then questioned about the theft of a mobile phone. He was also asked about his identity, and told that his description matched that of a person wanted by police.
Man A lodged a complaint that police had victimised him purely on the basis of his racial background.
During the investigation of Man A’s complaint, a Police Ombudsman investigator identified the two officers involved. One of the officers explained that they had played no role in identifying the man for questioning, and instead were responding to directions relayed to them by CCTV operators.
The CCTV operators had been scanning the area in which the phone was reported to have been stolen, and had identified Man A and another man in that area as potential suspects.
The officers said they were also informed that Man A’s description matched that of a man wanted by police on several outstanding warrants.
Officers' accounts corroborated by radio transmissions.
Their account was confirmed by police radio transmissions relating to the incident. These revealed that the officers were given frequent updates by the CCTV operators about Man A’s movements as they followed him to his workplace.
In addition, two line managers from Man A’s workplace were spoken to by the Police Ombudsman investigator. Both stated that Man A had been isolated from other staff before being questioned by police.
One of the managers had also been present while the questioning took place and stated that he did not see police doing anything which he would consider to be inappropriate.
Man A accepted that although police had initially told him they wanted to speak to him about a mobile phone he had lost, once he had been taken to a more private area, they revealed the real nature of their enquiries.
The investigation concluded that the officers were within their right to enter the man’s workplace in order to investigate an alleged offence and check the identity of a person they believed was wanted by police. Although the officers had initially given a false reason for wishing to speak to Man A, it was found that this was done in order to spare him embarrassment in front of colleagues.
The investigation concluded there to have been no discriminatory motive behind the officers’ actions.