Four police officers who wrongly arrested a black man for stealing a bicycle in London when told that the suspect was white have been put through misconduct hearings.
An inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission twice overturned earlier decisions by the Metropolitan police that no investigation was necessary.
The original incident occurred in Leather Lane, central London, in February 2016 when three male police officers and a female officer were working early in the evening on a plain clothes anti-cycle-theft operation in Camden.
They were alerted that a white man wearing a light green jacket and blue jeans had stolen a silver bike in the area.
Despite the thief standing near a group of bike couriers chatting after work, the officers instead grabbed 47-year-old Andrew Okorodudu, who is black, and was wearing a grey jacket, when he joined the group on his white bike.
The officers threw him to the ground, according to his lawyers Hodge Jones & Allen, who supported him in bringing the complaint. Okorodudu was restrained with handcuffs as the thief watched and then rode off on the stolen bike.
The IPCC report criticised the Metropolitan police officers for apparently ignoring the ethnicity of the suspect in the detailed description given to them over police radio and acting with unconscious bias.
Okorodudu suffered injuries to his head, legs, knees and wrists and needed medical treatment. He eventually received a four-figure compensation settlement from the police.
Joanna Bennett, the lawyer at Hodge Jones & Allen who represented Okorodudu, said: “Despite all the initiatives and training to stamp out racial bias, it clearly still exists within the police force. Despite the obvious description of the suspect as white, the first officer on the scene instead immediately targets a black man and then uses excessive force to arrest him.
“What is equally concerning is that the police’s own investigation concluded that the officers had done nothing wrong. It was only when the IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] reviewed the evidence and issued a directive for a misconduct hearing that they were called to task over their behaviour.”
The officers maintained that they did not hear the description of the ethnicity of the suspect. Their claim, it was said, was undermined by records in their notebooks that included that the suspect was white.
At the misconduct hearing in November last year three of the officers were told they had no case to answer, but one officer was criticised for failing to obtain an IC code (ethnicity) which contributed to unconscious bias.
A spokesperson for the IOPC, which was formerly the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: “Mr Okorodudu complained to the Metropolitan police over his arrest in February 2016. After being unhappy about the outcome of two investigations into his complaint he appealed to the IOPC, which we upheld.
“In August 2017 we directed the Metropolitan police to hold misconduct meetings for four officers, following which one officer received management advice.”