IOPC launches investigation into alleged police brutality in Birmingham

Henry McDonald
Photograph: Alamy

A police watchdog has launched an inquiry into allegations of racially motivated brutality including the use of stun guns by officers in Birmingham.

The use of the weapons is forming part of an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into six allegations of over-use of force by the West Midlands police on black men in the city.

Lawyers from the action against state and police legal unit of Bindmans law firm, along with Inquest, the charity that investigates state-related deaths, said there needed to be an urgent review of stun guns across UK police forces.

The IOPC confirmed it was conducting a “full, fair and thorough” inquiry into several West Midlands officers.

The inquiry includes claims that black men were wrongly shot with stun guns by a rogue officer, the IOPC said.

The inquiry started in April after video emerged of a police officer apparently beating a 15-year-old boy in the Newtown area. The officer was suspended from the West Midlands force after he appeared to knock the boy down with a punch before kicking him.

The IOPC investigation is also examining CCTV footage from the previous day apparently showing the same officer beating a black cyclist. The officer is alleged to be seen dragging the 44-year-old male off his bike before pulling down the man’s protective face mask.

The video also apparently showed a female colleague holding the man down while the male officer appeared to punch the cyclist three times in the back.

Further footage emerged of an incident on 27 February in the Handsworth area of Birmingham where Trevalie Wyse, a 30-year-old local black man, had witnessed a car crash. The same officer in the April incidents is seen ordering the man to the ground even though he was a bystander: he was then shot with a stun gun for failing to get down on the floor.

Wyse later described being shot with the weapon: “I was hit in the stomach and in the throat. I passed out – when you’re being Tasered, it’s not a nice feeling … It’s disgraceful, there was no reason to do that whatsoever.”

On the use of the weapons by the West Midlands force and excessive police actions in general, Joseph Morgan, a solicitor with Bindmans, said: “The recent incident in Birmingham highlights the dangers of arming rank-and-file officers with Tasers. Police guidance on the use of Tasers is vague and leaves much to the judgment of individual officers. With the significant government rollout of Tasers to police forces leading to a rapid increase in their use in recent years, it is to be expected that instances of police officers overzealously using Tasers against members of the public would also increase.”

Deborah Coles, the director of Inquest, said the use of stun guns and excessive use of force generally by some police officers disproportionately targeted black people and other ethnic minorities.

“There is a sense in these communities that no one is ever held accountable after deaths and serious incidents. The test for the credibility of this IOPC investigation will be if something happens as a result,” Coles said.

The head of the West Midlands force’s professional standards department, Chief Supt Chris Todd, said: “Serving and protecting the public is paramount and it is vital that our communities have trust and confidence in everything that we do.”

Derrick Campbell, the IOPC’s director in the region, said: “I would like to reassure communities in the West Midlands that full, fair and thorough independent investigations are under way into all of these incidents and the conduct matters brought to our attention by the force.”