Police officer “abused position” over traffic collision

Published Date: 28.10.2021

A police officer abused his professional position by producing his police warrant card while confronting a driver about a traffic collision, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found.

The driver complained that the officer had tried to “bully” him into admitting liability for a collision involving the officer’s father.

He said that shortly after the collision, the officer and his father came to speak to him at an address near Downpatrick where he was working.

Although the officer made no reference at that stage to being a member of the PSNI, the complainant stated that the officer demanded that he admit liability for the crash.

He refused to do so, but stated that the officer returned the following day and confronted him about the collision in an “aggressive and intimidating” way.

Man said officer was "aggressive and intimidating"
During this exchange, he said the officer produced his police warrant card and threatened to have him arrested for dangerous driving if he did not admit liability. He said the officer also referred to a previous traffic incident in which he had been involved.

The man subsequently made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

When a Police Ombudsman investigator contacted the PSNI about the incident, the officer’s supervisor confirmed that the officer had already spoken to him about the incident.

He said the officer accepted that it had been inappropriate to have produced his warrant card during the exchange – effectively placing himself on duty. The supervisor then told him not to make any further contact with the man.

Despite this, the officer visited the man again the following day, stating that he did so to apologise for any alarm he had caused by identifying himself as a police officer.

When asked about the incident by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officer denied that he had threatened to have the man arrested or had acted aggressively.

He also denied having inappropriately accessed information about the driver or collision on police systems. Police logs viewed by the Police Ombudsman investigator contained no evidence that he had done so.

However, the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Marie Anderson, concluded that by placing himself on duty while dealing with a private matter the officer had abused his professional position. She recommended that the officer be disciplined.

However, decisions on whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings are a matter for the PSNI’s Professional Standards Department. As the officer had been previously dealt with by police after admitting what he had done to his supervisor, no further action was taken by the PSNI.
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