This latest probe by the watchdog follows the misconduct hearing announced earlier this week for two other Met officers over the arrest and hand-cuffing last year of an innocent black schoolboy
Two Croydon police officers are under criminal investigation for the potential offence of gross negligence manslaughter, following the death in July while in custody of Mikias Tekeste, a young black man.
The announcement from the Independent Office for Police Conduct was made just a couple of hours before Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was due to address a packed audience at the Fairfield Halls to present his vision for a “New Met”.
Community groups in Croydon have been growing increasingly impatient with the way the police have handled cases recently, including the arrest – and then “unarrest” – of a young mother at a bus stop on Whitehorse Road in July, after she was hand-cuffed on suspicion of fare dodging in front of her sobbing son.
In the case of Tekeste, the identity of the prisoner involved in the tragic episode had not been released by the police for eight weeks.
In a statement issued by the IOPC they said, “Mikias Tekeste, aged 30, died on 15 July 2023 after he became unwell in his custody cell and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced deceased shortly afterwards.
“IOPC investigators have viewed CCTV from inside the police van that transported Mr Tekeste to custody following his arrest and have determined that two officers who were in the vehicle may have failed to appropriately supervise Mr Tekeste during this time.
“As a result, we have advised two police constables that they are being criminally investigated for the potential offence of gross negligence manslaughter.
“The officers are also being investigated for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct.
“This does not mean that criminal charges or disciplinary proceedings will necessarily follow.
“Mr Tekeste was arrested by MPS officers in Croydon town centre on the afternoon of 15 July and taken to the Croydon Custody Centre.
“Later that evening, custody staff noticed he appeared unwell. First aid was given in custody by a medical professional and an ambulance was requested.
“Paramedics arrived minutes later and Mr Tekeste was taken to hospital where he sadly died the same night.
“A post mortem was completed and we await further results, including a toxicology report. A date for the opening of the inquest is yet to be set.
“IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: ‘Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of Mikias Tekeste. Our investigators have met with his family to inform them of this update.
“We are continuing to piece together the circumstances leading up to Mr Tekeste’s death and we are reviewing the actions of MPS staff beginning from his arrest in Croydon, to his transport to and subsequent detention in the custody suite. We have found no evidence of any inappropriate use of force during this period.
“At the end of our investigation we will decide whether to refer a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision and also determine whether any MPS staff should face disciplinary proceedings.”
The Met issued its own statement this afternoon in which they stated that Tekeste “had been recalled to prison” and that he was “arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs”.
According to the Met, CCTV footage from his time in the police vehicle shows Tekeste “remove items from his clothing before swallowing them”.
The Met also says that the IOPC investigation has found no evidence of inappropriate use of force.
Which may come as a bit of a relief to the local police, as this is the second IOPC inquiry involving potential misconduct by their officers in Croydon in the space of a week, and the previous one very much looks at the inappropriate use of force – on a black schoolboy.
On Tuesday it was confirmed that two officers will face a gross misconduct hearing following a complaint about the stop-and-search of a child last year in an incident which had troubling parallels with the notorious arrest in America of George Floyd, which gave rise to the Black Lives Matter global protests.
The 14-year-old schoolboy, who is black, was detained by officers at Blackhorse Lane as they responded to reports of a robbery at knifepoint at the nearby tram stop.
“The complaint alleged officers used excessive force in restraining and handcuffing him, taking him to [the] floor, kneeling on his back and that his treatment was motivated by discrimination on the grounds of his race and age. We also investigated the grounds for the stop and search,” the IOPC statement said.
“We concluded our investigation in July 2023 and subsequently determined that a police constable and an acting police sergeant should face a gross misconduct hearing for alleged breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour.”
Among the matters to be looked at in the hearing will be their use of force in handcuffing the child, “honesty and integrity, relating to the officers’ actions and comments made during the stop and search”, and the alleged discrimination.
“Mobile phone footage of part of this incident was shared to social media and widely viewed on mainstream news outlets, which led to public concern,” IOPC director Palmer said.
“We have now decided that two officers have cases to answer for gross misconduct and should face a hearing where a police disciplinary panel will decide whether the gross misconduct allegations are proven.”
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