In July last year, some footage of an arrest that was made by some Metropolitan Police Officers went viral after a 3-minute video clip of an incident that lasted around four times that length was shared on social media.
The clip that was shared by the mainstream media and the individual who recorded the incident only showed the arrest of a male and did not reveal what led up to the arrest.
The incident occurred in Popular, east London, on Tuesday 9th July 2019 and involved the arrest of Youness Bentahar.
As the edited clip that was shared on social media only showed the moment when officers restrained Bentahar, the incident created a media frenzy with people calling for the police officers to be sacked.
A year later and following an extensive investigation by the Independent Officer for Police Conduct (IOPC), the officers involved in the arrest have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
When investigators reviewed the officers’ body-worn video footage of the entire incident, it clearly showed that Bentahar was asked to move his car and present his driving licence several times.
Still, he refused to comply with the lawful requests which were being made by the officers.
His car was causing an obstruction on the road for other motorists, which is why the police needed to speak to him.
Officers attempted to speak with the 38-year-old about his car and tried to convince him to move it, negating the need for any further police action.
However, Bentahar refused to move his car, and so officers were left with no alternative other than to arrest him. As officers tried to arrest Bentahar, he resisted and became violent towards them, assaulting two officers in the process.
Bentahar was then arrested on suspicion of obstruction of the highway, assaulting police and resisting arrest.
During the incident, Bentahar appeared to become unwell. Additional officers quickly arrived on the scene to assist. They gave first aid and called an ambulance. Bentahar was taken to hospital as a precaution but was released soon after.
Owing to the media storm which followed the partial clip of the incident being uploaded to social media, the Met made a mandatory referral to the IOPC.
As part of the IOPC’s investigation, one of the officer’s involved in the arrest was interviewed under criminal caution. The IOPC then referred the case against the officer to the Crown Prosecution Service.
No charges were brought against the officer.
The IOPC investigation found Bentahar appeared to have a seizure during the arrest, with evidence suggesting some of the initial officers were unsure if it was genuine.
This did not impact on the care given to Bentahar, and the IOPC gave no individual recommendation to any of the officers regarding this part of their investigation.
The officer who was interviewed under caution by the IOPC has since taken part in a ‘reflective practice review’ which is a formal process in legislation and consists of a ‘fact-finding stage’ and a ‘discussion stage’, followed by a development report being produced to ‘carry forward learning’.
Bentahar was released under investigation, and the matter subsequently referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS did not bring any charges against him.
Commander Paul Betts, Directorate of Professional Standards, said:
“We welcome independent scrutiny and fully supported the IOPC investigation; the general public must have confidence in how we police. We acknowledge the IOPC found no case to answer for misconduct and have taken forward the reflective practice review for our officer. The officers in this matter were dealing with a difficult situation with a man who had resisted arrest, but as a force we want to learn and improve for the future.
“We are also aware of the IOPC’s recommendation around additional training for officers when dealing with potential medical emergencies. All officers are trained in first aid and know they have a duty of care to assist anyone taken unwell; they do this day in and day out in London. We teach that all officers involved in an incident have a responsibility to continually assess a detainee’s condition, particularly if they have been restrained.
“However, we are always keen to learn and develop and will implement any further training recommended by the National Police Chief’s Council or the College of Policing.”
IOPC Regional Director for London, Sal Naseem, said:
“This was a thorough and detailed investigation of an incident that attracted significant public interest at the time.
“Our investigation looked at a range of factors including discrimination and use of force and found the best outcome was reflective practice for the officer.
“We were concerned that Mr Bentahar’s apparent seizure was not taken seriously by some officers and it should have been.
“That’s why we are looking at how this can inform national training, as a key part of our role is to help prevent these issues from happening again. This can only be in the interests of both the police and the public.”
A spokesperson for the IOPC said:
‘Our investigation highlighted the need for officers to fully understand the risks of not treating people according to how they present and assuming the medical conditions or illnesses are not genuine.
‘Our investigation concluded in April, with the Metropolitan Police (MPS) agreeing an officer should reflect as part of a new formal process introduced in February 2020 on how he could have handled the incident better to avoid an alleged minor traffic offence escalating into a restraint, taking a more conversational approach to the five-step communication model.
‘We agreed with the MPS that there was no case to answer for misconduct.
‘We looked at the officer’s use of force and communication when arresting Mr Bentahar and issues around disability, religion, gender and racial discrimination after community members raised particular concerns. Mr Bentahar also stated he felt he was racially discriminated against.
‘During the incident, Mr Bentahar was asked several times to move his car, parked on a yellow line and displaying a blue badge, as it was causing an obstruction. Mr Bentahar did not move the car, so officers tried to arrest him. He resisted and was restrained, during which he appeared to have a seizure.
‘The IOPC worked with the local community to provide reassurance and confidence in police accountability and the complaints system.
‘We explained our role in conducting an independent investigation which looked at the actions of the officers leading up to and including the arrest and restraint of Mr Bentahar against relevant training, legislation and local and national policy and guidance.
‘This included their initial contact with Mr Bentahar and his wife, and their decision that the car was parked unlawfully and had to be moved; their engagement with them and any consideration given to the children in the car; the decision to arrest Mr Bentahar; the force used on him; the medical care provided to Mr Bentahar; and whether there was any evidence of discrimination on the grounds of disability, race, gender and religion.
‘Our investigation included a review of BWV footage. To consider the concerns around discrimination, we looked at comparative evidence, including sampling clips from the officer’s BWV footage of previous interactions with other members of the public.
‘We also interviewed independent witnesses and the officer’s colleagues.
‘The officer himself was interviewed under criminal caution, although the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) subsequently decided no charges were to be brought against him.
‘Though we agreed with the MPS that there was no case to answer for misconduct on use of force and discrimination, we did feel that, as the car was displaying a blue badge, more could have been done to identify whether any reasonable adjustments around disability needed to be made’.
Commenting on the case, a prominent Councillor, Mr K Chowdhury (T: @khayerc), said:
‘It took the IOPC more than one year to confirm what the video evidence and police statement told us last year: officers did nothing wrong and people need to comply with officers when asked’.
Phill Matthews, Conduct and Performance Lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales tweeted:
‘Remember the social media circus this incident created and caused?
‘Don’t see any redress for the officers or media interest now it’s a year later and they have been found to have acted correctly? most complaints end this way, damage is done early & press not interested in redress’.
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