Police in London must be either quite blind or very racist. How else can they explain arresting an innocent black man when they were supposed to look for a white bicycle thief?
A team of police officers working on a stolen bike operation were notified a silver bicycle was stolen in Camden. Their control room sent a description of the suspect as a white male wearing a light green jacket, blue jeans, flat cap and carrying a black rucksack. However, when the police arrived, they grabbed an innocent black man instead.
Andrew Okorodudu, 47, who was riding on his own white bike, arrived near the scene where the bike thief was standing, shortly after cops were alerted of the theft. When the four officers saw Okorodudu, a black man, they assumed he was the thief (because why not?) and without so much as a by your leave, grabbed Okorodudu from behind, pushed him to the ground, held him “in a loose headlock to gain control” and quickly handcuffed him. Meanwhile, the real suspect, who was standing just a few feet away and watching the show, rode away on the stolen bike.
After the sudden assault by the police, Okorodudu needed medical treatment for injuries to his head, legs, wrists and knees.
The four officers responsible for the disgraceful incident have come up with various excuses for “mistakenly” arresting the black man — some of which are contradictory.
According to the very full and accurate description of the suspect, the bicycle thief had stolen a silver bike and was wearing a light green jacket. Okorodudu was riding a white bike and wearing a grey jacket.
However, officers claimed the lighting was poor so they could not figure out Okorodudu’s skin and clothing color. Their allegation does not hold water because the skin color and jacket “was clear” in CCTV footage, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The cops then claimed they did not know the suspect’s ethnicity. However, officers in the control room insisted they had given the cops a full description of the bike thief over the radio. The IOPC also found the cops had noted the man’s ethnicity in their notebooks.
“It is difficult to accept that there were reasonable grounds for the arrest as Mr Okorodudu was of a different ethnicity, had a different color jacket on and also had a white bike,” the IOPC said. “If the control room had provided information that the suspect had entered and then stood outside the off licence, it is difficult to understand why the officers concentrated on Mr Okorodudu, who was cycling.”
The IOPC also said the arrest of Okorodudu was not “reasonable.” CCTV footage shows the four police officers rushing past the actual suspect to Okorodudu who was facing away from them. The first officer did not speak to the black man but instead simply grabbed him.
The report said Okorodudu had his earphones in at the time so he may not have heard the police officers approaching him and identifying themselves. However, when the first officer grabbed him, the other three officers also intervened, tackled him to the ground and handcuffed him. Only then did they explain their real reason for the arrest.
They also said the Okorodudu was being aggressive and was “resisting arrest.” However, according to the CCTV footage, that’s not true. The black man did not have any time to respond before he was handcuffed and only when the cops told him he was suspected of stealing a bike, did he protest his wrongful arrest.
Soon after, one of the other officers realized they had gotten the wrong person and Okorodudu was released. But by that time, the thief had disappeared.
The IOPC said police should have instead spoken to Mr Okorodudu, adding: “The situation quickly got out of hand and that the force used may have been excessive and unreasonable.”
The incident took place on February 2016. Okorodu said the four officers should face disciplinary actions after their reckless act caused injury to him. The violent arrest could have amounted to common assault by the police officers but by the time Okorodudu decided to file a complaint, the statutory time limit for bringing a criminal prosecution against officers had passed.
He received a four-figure settlement and a luke-warm apology from the Metropolitan Police — but not before the department twice overturned inquiry by the IOPC to look into the incident.
The IOPC also accused Scotland Yard of being unwilling to consider the apparent contradiction as regards to the suspect’s ethnicity in the police notebooks and only “following the evidence to support its decision.”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve been wrongly targeted by the police,” Okorodudu said. “I’ve lived in London my whole life and it’s simply become a regular thing that I’m looked at suspiciously by the police for simply going about my business.”
“I’d like to think that telling my story will impact change, but I’m not that hopeful,” he added.
All officers underwent a misconduct hearing in November 2017, where three were found to have no case to answer and the fourth was found to have failed to get a radio code that confirms ethnicity — which is a failure that contributes to “unconscious bias.”
“Despite all the initiatives and training to stamp out racial bias, it clearly still exists within the police force,” Joanna Bennett, of Hodge Jones & Allen, said. “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.”
“Mr Okorodudu has since received damages for his ordeal but the apology from the police was half-hearted to say the least,” she added. “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 reviewed the evidence and issued a directive for a misconduct hearing that they were called to task over their behavior.”
It seems the Metropolitan Police needs to retrain its staff on racial biases — or invest in a pair of glasses for them.
Banner / Thumbnail : REUTERS, Edgar Su