IOPC will probe arrest of black boy, 13, playing with water pistol

Police watchdog will probe incident where armed officers rammed 13-year-old black boy who was playing with a water pistol off his bike

  • The boy was arrested in Hackney, east London , in July, then de-arrested 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said it will investigate an incident in which armed police rammed a 13-year-old boy with a water pistol off his bike.

The boy was arrested in Hackney, east London, in July, then subsequently de-arrested after it became clear that he was a child with a toy. Police then apologised to the family.

Today the IOPC said it has reconsidered its original decision to let the Metropolitan Police investigate.

The watchdog’s decision to investigate follows the boy’s mother raising concerns that the incident would not have occurred had her son ‘been a white 13-year-old boy’. 

IOPC Regional Director for London Charmaine Arbouin said: ‘This was clearly a distressing incident for this boy, his sister and mother and it is right that the complaint is investigated.

This is the type of water pistol that the youngster – known as Child X – was playing with as he was rammed off of his bicycle by the Metropolitan Police

A statement was read out on behalf of the boy’s mother at a press conference on Thursday as community and campaign groups called on police to recognise institutionalised racism  

‘We don’t have the resources to investigate all complaints that are sent to us by the police so when they make a referral we decide if the force should investigate it themselves or if we should take it on.

‘Those decisions can sometimes be very finely balanced and that is what happened in this case. 

‘When the referral came to us initially, we took into account a number of factors when we decided the Met should investigate.

‘This included doing what we believed was right for the family as we understood that their preference was to get it resolved with the force itself without involving us, and that the Met were comfortable with this. 

‘We were also confident, and remain confident, that the Met were taking the complaint seriously.’

The Alliance for Police Accountability (APA) has condemned the treatment of the child, saying his brightly-coloured water pistol was unmistakably a toy and that the incident demonstrated the ‘adultification’ of black children. 

In her statement, the mother of the boy, who has suffered from nightmares since the incident, said: ‘I feel let down and betrayed, not only by the police, but also by the IOPC, and by the whole system that is supposed to look after our children, black or white.

‘How can I be expected to place my faith in the police to investigate themselves when they have treated my son and me with contempt?’

Lee Jasper (second from right), chair of the Alliance for Police Accountability, said the incident was ‘shocking and appalling’ 

She added: ‘I feel broken by it all; distraught because I was not able to protect my child from what happened.’

Lee Jasper, chairman of the APA, told the press conference it was a ‘shocking and appalling case’ and that the child was ‘inches from death’.

He added: ‘Not only is a child having nightmares, not only is a mother replaying a scene which could have led to tragic consequences for her son but those who witnessed it are also suffering as a consequence of what they saw that day.’

READ MORE: Met Police sergeant and three constables are investigated for misconduct over the arrest and strip search of a 15-year-old schoolgirl 

Mr Jasper said there was increasing anecdotal evidence of ‘increasingly violent interactions between police and black children’.

He called on the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary to intervene in the case and for safeguarding practices to be amended to ‘take account of the incidence of institutionalised racism’.

Mr Jasper added: ‘Our children are routinely seen by police officers and teachers as adults instead of children.’

Detective Chief Superintendent James Conway, in charge of policing for Hackney and Tower Hamlets, said he had apologised to the family. 

He said: ‘This incident was understandably extremely distressing for the boy involved as well as the rest of his family. 

‘We know it may cause public concern and we want to help the public understand why we responded in the way we did. 

‘This does not in any way detract from our recognition of the trauma caused to the boy, for which I apologised soon afterwards to his family.’ 

An internal investigation by the Metropolitan Police found no misconduct had been committed by the officers involved. 

Further complaint accusing them of racial bias is still being investigated by the force’s standards department. 

Mr Conway said: ‘Our officers are dealing with fast-moving situations, based on the limited information provided to them at the time. 

‘Such is the nature of the threat from firearms that the College of Policing is clear that officers should treat all firearms as real and loaded until proven otherwise. 

‘The police have a positive legal obligation under human rights legislation to protect life, which shapes our approach to responding to suspected firearms.’ 

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