PC dismissed after vulnerable teenager hit with baton 'at least' 30 times
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
A PC has been dismissed after he used "unreasonable force" against a vulnerable teenager in Newham.
On May 8 in 2019, the Met Police were called to reports that a 17-year-old girl with learning disabilities had run away from a group on escorted leave from a mental health unit in Newham.
A passing police car was also flagged down.
Officers’ body-worn video showed the girl told officers she had mental health problems and agreed to get in the police car - before then getting out.
PC Benjamin Kemp, based at North East Command Unit, attempted to handcuff her and used CS spray less than a metre from her face, against guidelines.
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Within seconds, he had started using his baton, striking her several times.
Another officer also tasered the teen before she was put into a police van and returned to her carers.
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In total, she was struck "at least" 30 times, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Complaints from NHS trust staff members and the girl’s mother were assessed by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), which voluntarily referred itself to the IOPC.
The IOPC began an independent investigation, which took six months.
PC Kemp attended an IOPC misconduct hearing to answer allegations that his conduct amounted to a breach of the standards of professional behaviour in respect of use of force and authority, respect and courtesy.
The IOPC recommended misconduct proceedings should be brought against PC Kemp and the DPS held a gross misconduct hearing in private, as per the wishes of the girl's family.
That panel, led by an independent legally qualified chair, found all matters proven against PC Kemp on April 30 and he was dismissed without notice.
He has also been barred from policing, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was not enough evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Ch Supt Richard Tucker, who leads policing for the North East, said: “PC Kemp did not behave or use his equipment in accordance with his training; he over-reacted, used excessive force in a very disproportionate manner and was unprofessional.
"For that he has been held to account, and has been rightly dismissed from the service. I can assure you his actions are not representative of how we deal with situations like this in Newham and across London.
“On behalf of the Met, I apologise to the young woman and her family for how he behaved and to London’s wider communities for the impact this case undoubtedly has on the trust and confidence they have in how we police London."
He said the Met are called to "many thousands" of mental health-related incidents each year and in the vast majority of cases, do a "very difficult job with great compassion and sensitivity".
Following the IOPC investigation, the PC who used the taser was subject to management action by way of learning of the lack of respect and courtesy shown to both his colleagues and the girl - but not in respect to his use of the taser.
A third PC was given the opportunity to debrief the incident for her individual learning.
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “The body-worn footage we gathered showed a girl clearly in distress who was subjected to at least 30 baton strikes, had CS spray administered at very close quarters and was then tasered.
“Police officers are trained to deal with challenging situations and should only use force when it is necessary, proportionate and reasonable.
“The disciplinary panel also found PC Kemp had behaved in a manner which lacked self-control and did not take into account the vulnerable status of the teenager, who appeared very frightened."
He said “immediately resorting to use of force without considering other de-escalation tactics" was a concern.
“The poor communication by this officer got the incident off to a bad start and, once he started to use the baton, he was unable to change tack.”
Following the incident, the IOPC has also made "learning recommendations" to the Met around working with mental health trusts.
The Met said it has already made "enormous progress" in this area, which includes officers consulting with medical practitioners on a dedicated advice line, working with NHS improvement to develop a 111 hub for people in crisis as an alternative to 999, allowing mental health professionals to provide 24/7 advice to police, setting up a mental health toolkit, and putting in place a mental health team in all Basic Command Units.