Met denies racism after black man ‘choked’ during unlawful stop and search | stop and search

The Metropolitan Police are facing a new allegation of racism after a black man walking his dog claimed he was choked for 90 seconds in a headlock before being taken back to a police station and strip searched .

After a decade of legal battle for justice, the Met accepted last month that Zac Sharif-Ali was unlawfully arrested and searched by a white officer, PC Duncan Bullock, on London’s Chiswick Common in December 2012.

Bullock, who was dressed in civilian clothes, did not properly identify himself, failing to give his name or position, which made the search illegal. Sharif-Ali was released without charge the same day.

A letter from the Met’s professional standards department says it’s ‘a matter of regret’ Sharif-Ali was unlawfully searched: ‘I recognize the anxiety and distress this incident has caused you and would like to present to you my apologies on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service.” Sharif-Ali was awarded £30,000 in damages ending his civil claim for compensation against the Met.

However, the letter makes no apology for any force used against Sharif-Ali, who suffered a nervous breakdown following the incident. The Met told the Observer that Sharif-Ali was not stopped and searched because of the color of his skin. The force also denied that the officer used an unapproved neck restraint and that Sharif-Ali was placed in an extended neck restraint.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) looked into the matter after the Met carried out three internal investigations, all of which it found insufficient. The resulting IOPC Fund report, which was discussed in court in the civil suit brought by Sharif-Ali, says the restraint method chosen by Bullock appeared to contradict the training procedures.

The report also said the reason for Sharif-Ali’s restraint was unclear to the other officers called to the park and that their accounts indicated the maneuver “came out of nowhere”. He notes that Bullock admitted Sharif-Ali struggled to speak while in the neck hold – a technique which the Metropolitan Police Officer Safety Handbook says can lead to serious injury or death .

The sergeant on duty at the incident told the IOPC Fund that Bullock didn’t have a good work ethic and would stop and search people around lunchtime and then “thought he wouldn’t have anything to do.” do for the rest of the day.” She said: “I remember the day PC Bullock went out to get his sandwich so I knew he would bring back a stop and search form because he always did a stop and search when he went to get his lunch.”

The IOPC Fund’s investigation, which was completed in 2017, concluded that Bullock had a misconduct case to answer for his decision to stop and search and then strip search Sharif-Ali. He also concluded that he had a case to answer for the excessive force allegation against Sharif-Ali.

But a Met Police misconduct hearing the following year decided Bullock had reasonable grounds to search Sharif-Ali. The panel also found that Bullock legitimately used force in the midst of a quick fight.

Sharif-Ali said the Met’s apology was worthless and he still hadn’t received justice: “What did I get for being choked to the point of fearing death? What did I gain for being stripped naked and humiliated? What have I had for all the trauma and years of mental health issues? No officer was sanctioned. The Met dragged this out for 10 years. I haven’t been able to heal and move on. It’s like they did everything they could to make my pain worse.

He said he thought he was targeted because of the color of his skin: “If I do what everyone else does in a park…walk my dog ​​and eat a sandwich…then which of my actions gave him suspicions? I looked professionally casual. So what else but the color of my skin would make him think I’m doing something illegal? »

Sharif-Ali, who is a postman and aspiring musician, accused the Met of closing ranks and defending wrongdoing: “It shows that it goes much further than just officers on the street. It runs through the whole institution. »

The incident made him suspicious and wary. His relationship with his partner broke down and he lost touch with his friends and family. He was treated by his community mental health team and GP for nine years after the incident. “It ruined my character, my confidence, my mental state, which affects your ability to get work, your ability to seize opportunities. I lost everything,” he said.

Bullock told the IOPC Fund that he first approached Sharif-Ali because he was “hanging out in the park”, which he later admitted, “seemed very weak”. He later claimed that Sharif-Ali was on the phone at a known drug trafficking hotspot. But the IOPC found that Bullock’s justification was “poorly substantiated” because there was no specific information justifying him searching Sharif-Ali. The IOPC, however, noted that there was no evidence to support the claim that the search was racially motivated.

The IOPC Fund said the pair offered conflicting accounts of their interaction, with Sharif-Ali and Bullock saying each was rude and aggressive. The report, however, noted that the accounts indicated that Bullock did not rely on conflict management training models, which encourage officers to engage in respectful and mindful ways.

The IOPC Fund learned from another officer that Bullock put Sharif-Ali in a headlock, pushed him to the ground and struck him twice on the shoulder trying to handcuff him.

Bullock said he restrained Sharif Ali as he resisted attempts to handcuff him. He told the IOPC Fund that he grabbed him from behind “by the shoulders and neck” and knocked him to the ground. He added that he continued to hold him as he had one arm outstretched: “I tried to thwart his attempts by using my weight to get the buck low to the ground… as I I told the male to stop resisting as I told him to stop I heard the male struggling to speak I realized my arm was around his neck and immediately let go socket.

However, Sharif Ali told the IOPC Fund that he spoke with the other officers and did not resist when Bullock restrained him. He said: “Suddenly it occurred to me that my airway was cut off while I was in this chokehold. I was out of breath as I stood and seemed to pass out, my legs weakened and I was about to fall to the ground…. [PC Bullock] knowing that I had no more strength, aggressively slammed my chest against the ground, his grip still around my neck.

The IOPC Fund said force was used against Sharif-Ali even though he was not arrested on suspicion of drug offences, stressing that the use of force is not considered as reasonable as to prevent a crime or apprehend an offender. The IOPC Fund also noted that Bullock’s account had changed over time and contained inconsistencies, with no reference to Sharif-Ali using his phone in his contemporary account.

Iain Gould, a lawyer, who represented Sharif-Ali, said Bullock subjected Sharif-Ali to blatant abuse of power, including a terrifying chokehold around his neck. “In many ways, the worst thing that happened to Zac, however, was not Bullock’s aggressive actions, but the callous dismissal of Zac’s complaint by the Metropolitan Police which forced Zac through a torturous 10-year process. years of complaints and litigation before finally settling his claim. The Met has shown no remorse for its actions, and if anything seems to have been proud to fight PC Bullock’s corner and throw as many obstacles as possible in the way of my client’s campaign for justice.

The Met added: “We don’t underestimate the impact the use of stop and search can have, and we are redoubling our efforts to listen, engage and explain why we do what we do, and make improvements based on individuals’ lived experience to build trust in tactics.

theguardian Gt

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