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Officer found guilty of assault after grabbing man's dreadlocks


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PC, who says he was under attack himself, waits on sentence over beating conviction.

Court hearing: Loughborough Magistrates' Court

Court hearing: Loughborough Magistrates' Court

Date - 10th April 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
3 Comments3 Comments}

 

An officer who had to fend off a detainee trying to headbutt and knee him has been found guilty of assault by beating after grabbing the man’s dreadlocks and pulling him from a patrol car.

Now Nottinghamshire PC Matthew Thompson has an anxious wait over the Easter holiday, fearing his career is in jeopardy with a sentencing hearing at the end of this month.

Loughborough Magistrates Court was shown footage of the incident which left David Thomas, 52, face down in a city street after police were called to deal with claims of domestic violence.

After an eight-hour hearing, PC Matthew Thompson, 40, was convicted of using “excessive force” on Mr Thomas and causing him minor injuries.

The court heard that PC Thompson and a female officer responded to a 999 call from Mr Thomas's partner, saying she had been assaulted – having been subjected to "incredibly aggressive" behaviour.

PC Thompson began to talk to Mr Thomas in an incident partly caught on a body worn video camera.

Magistrates were told Mr Thomas tried to headbutt PC Thompson and raised a knee to hit him.

PC Thompson arrested the man on suspicion of assault and after handcuffing him placed him in the back of his patrol car.

When Mr Thomas refused to hand over a mobile phone there was a struggle which ended when the officer dragged him out of the car.

The man fell to the ground, banging his head, and later made a complaint about the officer’s use of force.

The officer told the court he placed both hands on Mr Thomas's head, as if to cup his head, as he got him out of the car. He placed him in the prone position and said he did everything in a legal, necessary and proportionate manner.

He used a fist strike down the thigh area of Mr Thomas’s right leg as a distraction technique.

Mr Thomas claimed in court the officer grabbed him by the ponytail and pulled him out of the car.

PC Richard Blackwell, responsible for officer safety and public order training at Watnall Training Centre, said in court PC Thompson's actions were in keeping with current police guidelines, and that there were no instructions about removing a handcuffed person from a car.

PC Thompson was charged after an investigation into his use of force during the arrest by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The case was adjourned for probation reports and the officer will be sentenced on April 30.

After the court case, IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: “Police officers are entrusted with the power to use force to carry out their duties but only if it is necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. 

"Our investigation, which included reviewing body worn video of the incident, raised serious concerns about the appropriateness of PC Thompson’s actions and we referred it to the CPS for a charging decision.

"The court has clearly taken the view that PC Thompson overstepped the mark.”

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We are not in possession of all the facts of the case but it does seem, to me, that the Magistrates need to have a lesson in life and the consequences of a violent non compliant man.  I could fully believe an appeal being lodged.

The headline says "Dreadlocks" yet the evidence talks of a "Pony Tail".  

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I agree, however, no matter how violent and non compliant a person may be, we must only use force that is necessary and proportionate. We must show prisoners and the public that we have higher standards no matter how uncooperative a person may be.

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Just now, Mac7 said:

I agree, however, no matter how violent and non compliant a person may be, we must only use force that is necessary and proportionate. We must show prisoners and the public that we have higher standards no matter how uncooperative a person may be.

And there goes the mystery. There is one video on YouTube which shows a British cop kneeled on top of a man punching him in the face. Now to the public it looks like horrendous police brutality. The reality of the situation was that the officers arm was being bitten by the assailant and the punches were to free his arm. If it is still on, or if I can find it, I will post the link. 

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Well there is insufficient evidence in terms of detail for me to offer an opinion regarding this case, but there are times where you feel you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Take a kicking/let someone get away or possibly risk an investigation and losing your career. I tell my officers to make a full and detailed record of every restraint and if they wear bodycam make sure they match.

Edited by Cathedral Bobby
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Not much detail however this line "An officer who had to fend off a detainee trying to headbutt and knee him has been found guilty of assault by beating after grabbing the man’s dreadlocks and pulling him from a patrol car" would suggest the initial assault on the officer was over, and that the officer assaulted the criminal whilst removing him from the patrol car.

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Surprised Notts don't train for vehicle extractions, there certainly are very clear techniques for extraction of cuffed individuals within the CoP PST syllabus.

In ready the local rag it seems when PST/OST instructors give evidence, if you use any technique which is not subscribed to you're on a sticky wicket. And we all know how effective the PST/OST techniques really are 😢

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2 hours ago, Cathedral Bobby said:

Surprised Notts don't train for vehicle extractions, there certainly are very clear techniques for extraction of cuffed individuals within the CoP PST syllabus.

In ready the local rag it seems when PST/OST instructors give evidence, if you use any technique which is not subscribed to you're on a sticky wicket. And we all know how effective the PST/OST techniques really are 😢

 Vehicle extraction is in the manual, but again lacks practical application in the real world, as the rest of the syllabus 

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Just now, Funkywingnut said:

Vehicle extraction is in the manual, but again lacks practical application in the real world, as the rest of the syllabus 

Biggest problem we have is during your OST/PST the instructors tell you that you can strike, punch, kick, pull hair, nearly do whatever depending upon the level of resistance or force levelled against you, but when it comes to court the instructors will limit their professional opinion to what is in the manual. 

Now whatever the realities of this case it doesn't fill me with confidence.

Example let's say a colleague is attempting to remove someone from the drivers seat. The person being removed is violent ant lashes out aggressively at the colleague assaulting them. So I go to the passenger side, seeing the person is turned towards colleague lashing out, I lean inside the car putting the driver in a headlock and drag him out, causing minor injuries. He makes allegation of assault which ends up at court. The PST/OST instructor attends and says that pulling someone from a vehicle in a headlock is not a technique taught. What message does that send to the magistrate/jury. We all know the very limited use of the techniques we are taught and it ultimately, in my opinion, protects the organisation more than the officer. We all know on the street you do what will work, and PST/OST rarely fits the bill.

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Biggest problem we have is during your OST/PST the instructors tell you that you can strike, punch, kick, pull hair, nearly do whatever depending upon the level of resistance or force levelled against you, but when it comes to court the instructors will limit their professional opinion to what is in the manual. 

 

You can strike, punch, kick etc in response to a legitimate threat but you can’t automatically do the same to secure compliance.

 

We often see US ‘cop clips’ where an Officer issues a ‘lawful order’ and then retaliates when their adversary doesn’t follow a ‘lawful instruction’. No such concept exists in Brit law.

 

If someone doesn’t do what they are told, yet they are not a threat, then any use of force needs to be considered within that context. In this case, a man whom was handcuffed to the rear and was trying to operate his phone behind his back clearly wouldn’t have been able to do EVEN IF he had eyes in the back of his head because he had too many dreadlocks. There was no real need to drag him out of the cop car, sadly.

 

It is such an unfortunate case, as this Officer was confronted by an appalling excuse of a human being. But he seemingly used excessive force not in relation to a threat but in relation to stopping a handcuffed individual using a mobile phone.

 

If someone is handcuffed to the rear in a back of a police car then they are vulnerable to whatever you want to inflict on them. Personally, I would using my fingers to push down brutally into their shoulder pressure points until they beg for mercy.

 

Red mist sadly ruined this Officer’s career. Nonetheless, I am somewhat saddened that the Magistrates made a choice to convict. They could have easily said that the case of the Crown didn’t meet the evidential threshold of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.

 

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4 minutes ago, ParochialYokal said:

 

You can strike, punch, kick etc in response to a legitimate threat but you can’t automatically do the same to secure compliance.

 

It is such an unfortunate case, as this Officer was confronted by an appalling excuse of a human being. But he seemingly used excessive force not in relation to a threat but in relation to stopping a handcuffed individual using a mobile phone.

 

If someone is handcuffed to the rear in a back of a police car then they are vulnerable to whatever you want to inflict on them. Personally, I would using my fingers to push down brutally into their shoulder pressure points until they beg for mercy.

 

Red mist sadly ruined this Officer’s career. Nonetheless, I am somewhat saddened that the Magistrates made a choice to convict. They could have easily said that the case of the Crown didn’t meet the evidential threshold of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.

Let's not be so quick to throw the officer under the bus here. According to the sources presented, he has grabbed someone by the head to pull them out of a car, and given some distraction strikes to the leg. There is absolutely nothing there that would seem out of the ordinary for someone strongly resisting. 

I'd also urge you to be cautious about how you present your use of pain compliance. 

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Just now, ParochialYokal said:

You can strike, punch, kick etc in response to a legitimate threat but you can’t automatically do the same to secure compliance

That's incorrect. Don't know when you last did PST but you're taught that you can strike to secure compliance. Example you take down to floor into prone, you affix first cuff to the right wrist, which you are holding while pinning to the floor through a wrist lock/shoulder pin. You tell them to put their left hand into the middle of their back to cuff them, they refust, you can legitimately strike them/use pain compliance to get them to do it. 

Edited by Cathedral Bobby
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Based on the information available in the article I have to say this is one of the most ridiculous convictions I have ever heard of. What makes me more angry and concerned is the fact that CPS reviewed this and thought that a charge was appropriate. 

It concerns me because I have seen a lot worse on some of the TV documentaries and jobs I have attended. I have had to pull people out of vehicles before, if someone is resisting then it doesn’t look pretty unfortunately. 

We are heading in a dangerous direction, I certainly don’t advocate going over the top with suspects but use of force situations are not nice and not pretty. 

And even more puzzling, you absolutely can use strikes to assist with compliance, this is pretty standard to get get someone to release their grip, to bend their arm, to enable non compliant handcuffing etc. I fear that the magistrates haven’t actually understood use of force legislation.

Edited by Hyphen
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