‘Get off my neck’: London police officer suspended after arrest incident

Photo: Credit Evening Standard

A Metropolitan police officer has been suspended after a video appeared to show him briefly apply pressure with his knee to a suspect’s neck area during an arrest in London. The suspect, who is handcuffed and on the ground, shouts “get off my neck”. The Metropolitan police said the video was “extremely disturbing”, and that they had suspended one officer and removed another from operational duty.

They have referred the case to the police watchdog, the IOPC, who will decide if they will independently investigate. Officers are not supposed to apply pressure to the neck area except in exceptional circumstances, the IOPC – the professional body which sets standards for policing – told the Guardian.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who has oversight of the Met, said he was “deeply concerned about this distressing incident”. The incident happened at 6.30pm on Thursday evening on Isledon Road, north London, near to Finsbury Park underground station. Police say the man was arrested on suspicion of affray and possession of an offensive weapon.

The video shows a suspect in a green t-shirt handcuffed and on the ground with two officers also present, seemingly trying to gain further control of him. The two minute, 20-second clip opens with one officer appearing to have his knee on the suspect’s neck for several seconds. The officer places his hand on the man’s head to keep it down and a crowd gathers, some people pulling out phones to film, some verbally remonstrating with officers.

The suspect, who is black, protests his innocence and is heard saying: “Get off me, get off my neck. I haven’t done anything … get off my neck.” One officer holds onto handcuffs around the suspect’s wrists, while the officer seen earlier with his knee on the suspect tells the crowd to get back. After 90 seconds the man is seen sitting up. The Met said the suspect was in custody and investigations concerning him continue.

The force’s deputy commissioner, Steve House, said: “The video footage that I have seen today and is circulating on social media is extremely disturbing. I understand that many viewing the footage will share my concern. “The man involved was arrested, taken to a police station and has now been seen by a police doctor. Some of the techniques used cause me great concern – they are not taught in police training.

“We have quickly assessed the incident, including the body worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force. As a result we have referred the matter to the IOPC. “One officer has been suspended and another officer has been removed from operational duty, but not suspended at this time. This decision will be kept under review.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, called the incident “extremely concerning”. “It is right that it is quickly referred to the IOPC and an officer has been suspended,” he added . “I will be following this closely: we are policed by consent and that relies on the highest levels of respect and professionalism.”

Police in Britain are under intense scrutiny after a police officer in the US killed George Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes, and since the subsequent outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Standards and policies for policing in England and Wales are set by the College of Policing. A spokesperson for the College said: “Maintaining the safety and welfare of an individual under restraint is a priority for all police officers. National personal safety training for officers in England and Wales does not contain any restraint technique where officers apply pressure to the throat or neck area of a person.

“Officers are actively encouraged to avoid doing so due to the inherent dangers of putting pressure on the neck or throat, particularly during restraint. “If officers believe that they or other members of the public are in imminent danger they are permitted to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to prevent that danger.”

This video is the latest in a series on social media raising questions about police use of force and stop and search against ethnic minority people. It only tells part of the story, but was enough to stoke concern for Khan, who said: “I’m deeply concerned about this distressing incident and we have raised this with senior officers at the Met police as a matter of urgency.

“I welcome the fact the incident has been reviewed quickly by the Met and it’s right that they have referred it to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. I look forward to a swift and thorough independent investigation, with all decisions made public. It’s crucial our police service continues to earn the trust of the communities it serves.”

Source: The Guardian