Published Date: 08.05.2014
Two police officers who were accused of using unreasonable force to stop and detain the two occupants of a vehicle have been cleared following an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.
The passenger of the vehicle complained to the Office about the way in which police removed him from the vehicle after it had been stopped by officers in an unmarked police car.
He alleged that police officers got out of the car, pointed rifles in his direction and banged on the door window. He stated that the officers shouted at him and his companion using overly aggressive and obscene language, and ordered them to get out of the car or they would be shot.
When both doors were opened the man alleged he was pulled from the car by the left arm by one officer and tripped up by another officer. This made him to fall onto the footpath, causing cuts and torn clothing. He stated he was placed down on his knees and questioned about his identity, the ownership of the car and the identity of the driver. He said this went on for about 30 minutes before he and the driver were both released without an explanation as to why they were stopped or questioned.
Following the incident neither man was charged.
The Ombudsman’s investigation included witness appeals and a trawl of the area for CCTV footage. No witnesses came forward and no CCTV evidence was available.
The driver of the vehicle was interviewed. His account of what happened corresponded with that of the complainant.
The doctors’ notes from an examination of the man taken a day after the incident confirmed that he had suffered minor injuries.
The officer accused of using unreasonable force was interviewed. He said he was a member of a police anti-terrorist unit whose patrol was given orders to stop and search the vehicle in question for items believed to be of use to terrorists.
From the information received he said police had cause to believe the occupants of the car may have been armed. After the vehicle had been stopped the officer approached the passenger side of the car. He saw that the windows had black tinted glass which made it hard for him to see inside. There were two people in the front of the car.
The officer said he shouted 'Armed Police. Show me your hands. Get out of the car". When the door opened he stated that the passenger had his hands up but did not get out of the car. The officer then took hold of the man’s shirt and led him from the vehicle to the footpath which was 4-5 feet away. The officer said that he instructed the man to put his hands on his head and get down on his knees.
After he failed to comply following a second request to move down on to his knees the officer said he forced the man down in a controlled manner. The men and the car were searched but after no firearms were found they were both were released without charge. The officer stated that the whole incident lasted around 5 minutes.
The Ombudsman’s investigators were able to confirm that the police officers involved were instructed to use ‘hard stop’ tactics on the basis of information police had received.
A ‘hard stop’ is characterised by domination of a situation with the use of speed, controlled aggression, surprise, close quarter containment and firm verbal commands.
After examining all the evidence in the case a report was forwarded by the Office to the Public Prosecution Service. They subsequently directed no prosecution. A review was then carried out to assess whether the behaviour of the officers fell below the standard set out in the Police Code of Ethics. After careful examination it was decided not to recommend disciplinary action.
“On the basis of information which had been made available to them, the police officers believed the people in the car were likely to have guns and dealt with the matter in line with the procedures in place for such incidents. There was no misconduct on their part,” said a Police Ombudsman spokesman.
“However, the information the police had was wrong, which they have now acknowledged. For two people going about their lawful business this must have been a traumatic experience, to say the very least. Incidents like this do little to instil confidence in policing,” he added.