Riot police using excessive force and abusing power, says watchdog


More needs to be done to tackle the use of excessive force and abuse of power among the Metropolitan Police's unit of specially-trained riot officers, the police watchdog has said.

A review into complaints against the Met's Territorial Support Group (TSG) was launched in the wake of high-profile cases such as the allegations made against Pc Simon Harwood following the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests.

While the number of complaints has fallen from "unacceptably high" levels in 2009, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said, there are still a high proportion arising from unplanned stop and searches and instances of unlawful arrests.

There are 793 TSG officers working in London, tasked with dealing with public disorder outbursts, protecting against terrorism and cutting high-concern crime such as knife attacks.

A prevailing culture of aggressive and violent behaviour, particularly towards young black men, has featured heavily in allegations made against TSG officers, the IPCC said.

The IPCC, which looked at complaints and conduct cases involving TSG officers between 2008 and 2012, said allegations against TSG officers frequently fall in the "oppressive conduct" category.

The specially-trained officers, who work in demanding policing environments and high-crime areas, have more complaints made against them than their borough support unit (BSU) colleagues carrying out a similar role.

Four independent investigations arose from policing of the G20 protest in April 2009, the Commission said.

In the first case, Pc Harwood, a TSG officer, was charged and acquitted following a four-week trial for the manslaughter of Mr Tomlinson. He was subsequently dismissed without notice, following a misconduct hearing.

Pc Harwood hit Mr Tomlinson with a baton and shoved him to the ground on the fringes of the protests.

In other examples, a 29-year-old TSG officer was prosecuted for assault after pushing a 16-year-old through a shop window in the High Street in Bromley, south east London, in February 2010 when he approached to stop and search him. The officer resigned and was sentenced to 150 hours' unpaid work.

However, the number of complaints fell "substantially" in the final 36 months of the period, with the number of complaints against TSG officers at the 2009 G20 demonstrations higher than those at the student and Trades Union Congress protests in 2010/2011.

Within complaints made against TSG officers, 28 were referred to the IPCC for investigation, of which six were referred back to the Met Police and one was withdrawn.

Within the 28 complaints referred to the IPCC, 20 arose from unplanned street encounters, four were from planned operations and four from public order incidents.

Of the 28 complaints, 12 included allegations of racial discrimination.

Meanwhile, 23 of the 28 cases reviewed were stop and search encounters, of which only four cases resulted in items being seized.

The IPCC found a high proportion of complaints arising from unplanned stop and search encounters.

The Commission said it was concerned at the small number of upheld complaints, including in circumstances where the officers' actions were "questionable".

The TSG needs to look more closely at its complaints handling to see if it is properly upholding complaints where a member of the public has a legitimate grievance, the IPCC recommended.

The Met Police said they will "strive" to decrease the number of complaints even further by increasing the understanding of the work of the TSG.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine De Brunner said: "The TSG have made many improvements in recent years, which is evident in the decrease in the number of complaints, the sustained decline shows that the programme of work is having an impact.

"I am very proud that officers who have to face some of the most difficult situations are doing so in a highly professional way."


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower