Leeds police officer ‘under investigation’ after pepper spray incident

Video shared on social media shows an officer spraying multiple people during a public disturbance in Leeds

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Wednesday 25 October 2023 07:42 BST

West Yorkshire Police officer was filmed deploying irritant spray on members of the public in Rothwell, Leeds

West Yorkshire Police has confirmed they are investigating an incident after viral footage showed an officer blasting members of the public with pepper spray.

Video shared on social media shows an officer spraying multiple people during a public disturbance in Leeds.

It is believed that the West Yorkshire Police officer, branded “out of control” by commenters, is the same person who was accused of overreacting by arresting an autistic teenager earlier this year.

A West Yorkshire Police officer was filmed deploying irritant spray on members of the public

The girl’s mother made a formal complaint about the incident on 7 August, which was widely condemned for being heavy handed after it was posted on TikTok. The teenager was later told she would face no further action.

In the latest footage, which has been shared on X and viewed more than three million times, several officers can be seen clashing with a crowd in a residential street in Rothwell, Leeds, on Sunday.

One officer can be seen storming into the scene and rushing towards members of the public, who appear to be bystanders, and deploying irritant PAVA spray in their faces while shouting: “Get back, get back.”

In total, three people appear to have been blasted with the irritant spray, which is similar to pepper spray, with one man seen turning his head and shielding his eyes.

West Yorkshire Police has made a referral to professional standards after the incident

It added: “West Yorkshire Police is aware of footage circulating on social media around some disorder on Third Avenue, Rothwell on Sunday (22/10) afternoon.

“The matter is being investigated and body worn footage currently being reviewed. A referral has been made to the Professional Standards Directorate.”

According to the force’s website, use of PAVA irritant spray is only justified for individuals offering a level of violence which cannot be appropriately dealt with by other tactical options, or where failure to immediately incapacitate a violent offender would lead to increased risk to others present.

In the previous incident in August, the distressed autistic teen was filmed being removed from her Leeds home crying after she was arrested.

In the footage, a parent can be heard explaining to officers that she has autism and thought the officer looked like her grandmother.

Sharing the footage, the mother posted: “This is what police do when dealing with autistic children. My daughter told me the police officer looked like her nana, who is a lesbian.

“The officer took it the wrong way and said it was a homophobic comment [it wasn’t].

“The officer then entered my home. My daughter was having panic attacks from being touched by them and they still continued to manhandle her.”

Responding at the time, West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Oz Khan said: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media which, as is often the case, only provides a very limited snapshot of the circumstances of this incident.

“Officers had their body-worn video cameras activated during their wider involvement with this young girl which provides additional context to their actions.

“We have received a complaint in relation to this incident which is currently being assessed by West Yorkshire Professional Standards Directorate.”

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