A Kent Police officer has been given a written warning after misconduct was proven, following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.
Police Constable William Russell faced a hearing – held by Kent Police – for a breach of the police standards of professional behaviour after he slapped a detainee three times and made a derogatory comment while the man was in handcuffs and had his head covered with a spit hood.
In February 2019, the man was arrested after assaulting a member of the public and three police officers and causing criminal damage. He was waiting for treatment at a hospital in Margate after swallowing an unknown substance while in custody when PC Russell moved towards him, applied a spit hood and slapped his face three times.
During the IOPC investigation, which concluded in July 2019, there was a review of other officers’ body-worn video, witness statements were taken from them and the relevant national and local police policies and guidelines were studied.
The IOPC provided its report to the Crown Prosecution Service which found there was a case to answer for a criminal prosecution.
PC Russell was acquitted following a subsequent trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court in December.
Following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, Kent Police arranged PC Russell’s gross misconduct hearing, which began on April 27 via video-link.
Prior to the hearing father-of-three PC Russell accepted his conduct fell below the standards of professional behaviour and amounted to misconduct in relation to two of the slaps and the derogatory comment.
The two other allegations of unjustified/excessive use of force for applying the spit hood and for the third slap were not proven.
IOPC Regional Director for London and the South East, Sarah Green, said: “While there are occasions when the use of force is required, police officers are entrusted with the power to do so only if it is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
“Our investigation – which included examining body-worn footage from other officers at the scene – gave a clear insight as to what happened in the Margate hospital in February 2019. We examined the other officers’ behaviour during this incident and felt they used reasonable force when dealing with a violent and aggressive detainee.
“While PC Russell was acquitted at the criminal trial, Kent Police agreed the officer should face a gross misconduct hearing, and their panel has come to its decision.
“The community entrusts police to use the powers they have responsibly and appropriately. Most officers do so, but when this doesn’t occur, it’s important there is independent oversight and accountability, and any lessons to be learnt are identified.”