Police probationers commended by Police Ombudsman for reporting colleague’s inappropriate behaviour
Published Date: Sep 2023
The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Marie Anderson, has commended three probationary police officers for raising concern about the “highly inappropriate” way a colleague had spoken to a vulnerable man.
The officers had been responding to a report of concern for the man’s safety when their colleague made comments which a sergeant later described as “insulting, spiteful and deliberately provocative.”
They included comments about the man’s lifestyle and his girlfriend.
The man was recorded on police systems as having mental health problems, depression and other vulnerabilities.
The incident happened near Armagh city in March last year. The man told officers that he had suffered a number of seizures, felt very low and wanted to hurt himself.
However, when the officers tried to arrest him for his own safety a struggle ensued during which all four officers put him to the ground. He was subsequently taken to Craigavon Area Hospital for assessment.
When they returned to the police station afterwards, three of the officers reported concerns to their mentor, advising him that their colleague’s comments had brought the man to tears.
When his sergeant asked him about his conduct, he said the man had been difficult, had lashed out at police and had made multiple insulting comments. The sergeant deemed his response to have been “defensive and inadequate.”
The sergeant then visited the man to apologise, and went back the following day after he advised that the officer should apologise in person. The man accepted the officer’s apology.
After examining what had happened, a police inspector ordered that the officer’s two year probationary period, which he was about to complete, would be extended by three months.
Police also advised the Police Ombudsman about the matter, and she decided to investigate the officer’s conduct.
When interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officer said he had lost his temper and felt ashamed for what he described as “a momentary lapse” in professionalism.
He maintained, however, that any force used against the man had been proportionate and necessary to stop him hurting himself. The officer subsequently resigned from the PSNI.
Mrs Anderson stated that she would have recommended disciplinary action if the officer had not left the PSNI.
She noted that his colleagues had not felt able to address his behaviour during the incident for fear of inflaming an already volatile situation.
“The officers were probationers at the time, and the way they addressed their colleague’s behaviour demonstrated integrity. They are to be commended for upholding and supporting the principles and requirements of the PSNI Code of Ethics,” said Mrs Anderson.