Published Date: Aug 2017
A police officer has been disciplined after a Police Ombudsman investigation found that he had used “excessive and unjustified” force when he kicked a man during an incident in Belfast in July 2015.
The officer was with three colleagues when they called at the man’s flat at 5 a.m. to arrest him for failing to turn up for a court hearing.
After receiving no response the officers forced entry to the property and located the man, who was in bed with his then six-month pregnant girlfriend.
The man admitted that he was verbally abusive towards the officers, but denied offering any physical resistance. He was handcuffed to the rear and taken to wait on an elevator.
He claimed that when the lift arrived, one of the officers kicked him on the side and said “get the f**k in there you.”
A Police Ombudsman investigator obtained CCTV footage from the flat complex which confirmed that the officer had kicked the man, albeit not viciously.
When later interviewed, the officer described the kick as a “distraction blow” and said it was a reaction to the man claiming to have HIV and threatening to spit at the officers.
The man denied this, and said that in any case he did not have HIV.
The Police Ombudsman investigator said: “Having closely examined the CCTV footage, it was clear to me that it supported the man’s account, not the officer’s.
Officer claimed man said he had HIV and threatened to spit, but video did not show officers trying to avoid being spat upon.
“Police officers were standing in front of the man throughout the incident, but none made any movements to avoid or prevent being spat upon.
“The demeanour of the officer who aimed the kick was also relaxed, and at odds with his description of reacting to a threat."
In addition, enquiries were made with the PSNI’s training department, which confirmed that if there had been a threat of spitting, the use of a kick was “a poor tactical decision.”
The other three officers denied having seen the kick.
The Police Ombudsman investigator said: “I am satisfied that the man posed no immediate threat to the officers. It was not a vicious kick, but it was nonetheless unjustified and an excessive use of force.”
A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that the officer should not be prosecuted.
However, the investigator considered that the lower evidential threshold for disciplinary action had been reached and recommended that the officer should be disciplined for using excessive force.
The PSNI has since implemented the recommendation and the officer received an appropriate misconduct sanction.