Culled from The Independent/
Police violently arrested an innocent black man while the white suspect they were supposed to catch escaped, a watchdog has found.
Andrew Okorodudu, 47, was talking with friends in Camden when he was “grabbed” by non-uniformed police officers, thrown to the ground and handcuffed.
They had been tasked with apprehending a bicycle thief – who was standing metres away and looked on before cycling away on the stolen bike.
An internal investigation by the Metropolitan Police concluded that the arrest had been reasonable and no misconduct proceedings were necessary, but the finding was overruled.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct, formerly the IPCC, upheld Mr Okorodudu’s complaint about his arrest in February 2016.
It said the four officers should face disciplinary action after finding their actions could be tantamount to gross misconduct, with Mr Okorodudu needing medical treatment for injuries to his head, legs, knees and wrists.
He has separately received a four-figure settlement from the Metropolitan Police, which also sent him what his lawyers described as a “half-hearted” apology.
Joanna Bennett, of Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “Despite all the initiatives and training to stamp out racial bias, it clearly still exists within the police.
“Despite the obvious description of the suspect as white, the first officer on the scene instead immediately targets a black man and then uses excessive force to arrest him.
“Mr Okorodudu has since received damages for his ordeal but the apology from the police was half-hearted to say the least.
“What is equally concerning is that the police’s own investigation concluded that the officers had done nothing wrong. It was only when the IOPC reviewed the evidence and issued a directive for a misconduct hearing that they were called to task over their behaviour.”
A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said a civil claim for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault was settled in October “by mutual agreement” but would not discuss its terms.
The IOPC report described how a team of officers working on a bicycle theft operation were alerted after a silver bike was stolen in Camden.
Their control room relayed a description of the suspect as a white man wearing a light green jacket, blue jeans, flat cap and a black rucksack, saying he was standing in front of an off-licence.
Shortly afterwards Mr Okorodudu, who was black and wearing a grey jacket, rode up to a group of cycle couriers who were standing near the suspect on his own white bike.
There was no sufficient explanation of why Mr Okorodudu had been identified as a suspect when all four officers had been given a full and accurate description of the real thief’s race and clothing, it said.
Officers claimed the lighting was poor but the IOPC said the colour of his skin and jacket “was clear” in CCTV footage.
They also said they did not know the suspect’s ethnicity, despite knowing the details of his clothing and officers in the control room said all details had been given over the radio.
“It is difficult to accept that there were reasonable grounds for the arrest as Mr Okorodudu was of a different ethnicity, had a different colour jacket on and also had a white bike,” the IOPC said.
“If the control room had provided information that the suspect had entered and then stood outside the off licence, it is difficult to understand why the officers concentrated on Mr Okorodudu, who was cycling.”
The report, finding that the “arrest may not have been reasonable,” described how CCTV footage shows the four police officers “running past the suspect” to Mr Okorodudu, who was facing away from them at the time.
The first PC “failed to speak to Mr Okorodudu but simply arrived at the scene and grabbed him,” the IOPC report said.
It explained that he had his earphones in at the time and may not have seen or heard the plain clothes officer identify herself as police. The report also said she moved her hand away in a manner which was “not unreasonable”.
The action caused the three other police officers to intervene and push Mr Okorodudu to the ground, while one of them got him “in a loose headlock to gain control” before he was handcuffed.
Only then was the reason for the arrest explained, while the man protested his innocence, before one of the police officers realised they had the wrong person and the handcuffs were removed.
By that point, the real thief had cycled away on the stolen bike.
Police claimed Mr Okorodudu was resisting arrest but the IOPC found CCTV footage shows he “did not resist” and was tackled to the ground too quickly to be able to “act in the manner officers have described”.
The IOPC said police should have instead spoken to Mr Okorodudu, adding: “The situation quickly got out of hand and that the force used may have been excessive and unreasonable.”
It found that the incident could have amounted to common assault. But that the statutory time limit for bringing a criminal prosecution against officers had passed.
The IOPC also accused Scotland Yard’s internal investigator of failing to consider the apparent contradictions in police notebooks and only “following the evidence to support its decision”.
All four officers underwent a misconduct hearing in November, when three were found to have no case to answer and a fourth was found to have failed to obtain a radio code that identifies ethnicity – a failure found to “contribute to unconscious bias”.
An IOPC spokesperson said: “Mr Okorodudu complained to the Metropolitan Police over his arrest in February 2016.
“After being unhappy about the outcome of two investigations into his complaint he appealed to the IOPC which we upheld.
“In August 2017 we directed the Metropolitan Police to hold misconduct meetings for four officers, following which one officer received management advice.”
The case came after a review led by Labour MP David Lammy found “overt discrimination” against ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system and the Met was found to be disproportionately using stop and search against black people.