Police have said an officer will be required to justify his actions after video emerged of him appearing to strike a suspect during an altercation in a fast food restaurant in which officers were also kicked and dragged by members of a crowd surrounding them.
It shows two officers restraining a person on the floor of the fast food outlet on Mare Street, as several people look on. London's Metropolitan Police said it was called late Monday night by staff who had activated a panic alarm after a man fought with customers.
As one of the officers appears to raise his hand and strike the person being restrained on the floor with his radio, a bystander can be seen jumping in and aiming a kick at the pair.
The crowd, several of whom are filming on their phones, then moves in and someone pulls the officer’s leg, dragging him backwards. The constable is then heard to shout, “Get the f*** off me, get the f*** away from me”, before he draws a Taser.
The 49-second clip ends as the stun gun’s built-in torch flashes. The Independent understands the weapon was not discharged.
A back-up police team arrived shortly afterwards, the Met said, as it labelled the incident an “unacceptable, nasty” attack on officers “just trying to do their job”.
Steve Johnson, acting borough commander for the central east command unit, said: “Two officers, who were responding to a call to protect the public have been repeatedly assaulted. I would ask anyone with any information to call us and assist in the investigation."
In a separate statement, the force added: “Staff at the restaurant had used the panic alarm and reported that a man was fighting with customers. Two response officers attended and detained the man concerned. The officers were then confronted with a hostile crowd some of whom assaulted the officers. Both officers were later treated for injuries, one for an ankle injury and the other for cuts to his face. Neither officer has reported sick.”
A 30-year-old man has been arrested for assaulting the officers, and is in custody in a north London police station. “Enquiries continue to try and identify the other suspects involved,” the force added.
Challenged by a Twitter user to explain the actions of the officer who appeared to hit the prone suspect, the force’s Hackney borough team said: “It’s down to each officer to justify their own use of force and reasons for it.”
The Independent contacted the Met for further comment and highlighted the relevant portion of the video, which was also shared on Twitter by the Hackney team.
A spokesman said the force had not received any official complaints about the officer’s actions.
The footage did not show what may have caused the constable’s reaction.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct‘s media team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told The Independent that officers increasingly faced “allegation by media”.
He said "the public should be reassured that their police force is doing a good job” through transparency about their actions, but added that “in the same breath, when a video goes viral 30 seconds after an incident, what chance do officers have to respond to that?”
He said that “it’s very easy for members of the public to take videos and film of an incident to portray it in any way they want to. These police officers who are out there doing this 24 hours a day are heroes. If they weren’t doing it, it would be anarchy.”
Police officers are trained to give people clear instructions about how to behave during an arrest and must react accordingly if those orders are not followed, Mr Marsh said.
Social media users appeared to come down on the side of the police. “What a country this has become. These people should be helping the police, instead they are assaulting them,” said one person on Twitter, while another added: “Sad that no one stepped in to help the officers that are obviously struggling”.
A third, beans_fresh, tweeted: “Before we comment we need police authority to investigate both parties and give us a clear conclusion on this matter.”