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‘Officers should not be in fear – if they have done the right thing’

Police watchdog calls for witnesses as probe into Finsbury Park arrest continues

14 August, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

The arrest of Marcus Coutain in Finsbury Park last month

MET Police commissioner Cressida Dick has told her officers that they should have nothing to fear from members of the public posting films to social media – “if they have done the right thing”.

She said she understood that some felt it was “unfair” that short clips of incidents could be shared across the internet but said that the “truth would out” in each case.

Commissioner Dick was responding to questions from London Beat, the journal produced by the Metropolitan Police Federation. It had asked her what her advice to officers concerned about “heightened scrutiny” in recent weeks.

Short films of several incidents have appeared online in recent weeks, including the arrest of Marcus Coutain in Isledon Road, Finsbury Park, last month during which an officer appeared to kneel on him.

The police watchdog. the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), has launched an investigation into the conduct of two officers at the scene.

The IOPC will also explore whether, as a black man, Mr Coutain was treated differently by the police because of his race. He can be heard in a passer-by’s footage saying “I can’t breathe” as he was restrained.

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick

The Met suspended one officer while another was placed on “restricted duties” and also referred themselves to the IOPC.

On Monday the IOPC announced that one of the officers has been advised that they are “subject to a criminal investigation for common assault and investigation for gross misconduct”.

A second officer has been advised that they are subject to a misconduct investigation “on challenging and reporting improper conduct”.

The IOPC are appealing for witnesses to the incident to come forward.

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “We are independently examining whether the use of force and the stop and search on this occasion were appropriate and proportionate in line with approved police policies.

“This incident took place in public and was witnessed by several members of the public. A video of the incident has been widely shared on social media platforms.

“We would ask anybody who was in the area that day and saw police activity to get in touch with us.”

Ms Dick’s response to London Beat was not speaking about the case in Isledon Road and was a general answer about “snippets” of incidents being shared online.

She said the Met’s officers “have always been the most highly scrutinised”.

“I do recognise that the manner of social media scrutiny at the moment can feel unfair to individuals and the Met as a whole,” said Ms Dick. “Individuals must feel supported by colleagues and line managers and know that the ‘truth will out’.

“If they have done the right thing, they should have nothing to fear.”

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