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Officer trial by media is unjust says Fed after Suffolk officers cleared

Frontline leaders have called for an end to ‘trial by social media’ after Suffolk officers were cleared over their handling of a stop involving a Black couple.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said there was no case to answer against the two Suffolk Constabulary officers who were accused of harassment and racial profiling after they stopped and questioned the couple in Ipswich on 9 June 2020.

Details of the incident that could not be revealed at the time were also shared by the IOPC as part of its explanation.

The neighbourhood where the incident took place, which was during the first lockdown, was subject to a surveillance operation.

An officer had been tasked with observing an address nearby, on a separate policing matter, ensuring nobody came or went from the address. The couple's car drove past the location twice, prompting him to request enquiries be made of who the couple were.

The couple had moved from Watford to stay with a family member while their house was being renovated.

One officer questioned the couple to ensure they were not linked to the address, with another officer present.

A video of part of the incident, which was widely shared on social media, shows a police officer asking the man for identification and proof of residency after he had stepped out of his car onto a private driveway.

The clip was widely shared and remains online with multiple accounts including news outlets.

A complaint was later made to the force which was then passed to the IOPC.

The IOPC found that the officers’ actions in approaching the couple to exclude the man’s vehicle from their enquiries, were objective and not based on racial profiling or discrimination.

It added: “It was unfortunate that for operational reasons the officers could not provide the couple with a full explanation as to why they were stopped.”

IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said: “We examined the stop and found that the actions of the officers were appropriate and proportionate, followed approved police policies and that the officers did not treat the man and his wife differently because of their race.”

The IOPC advised that the force should look at how to support officers better in de-escalating situations.

“We found that there was room for improvement in some of the officers’ interactions with the couple who were entirely justified in querying why they were being stopped,” the IOPC said.

it has suggested that the force considers a restorative justice meeting with the couple.

At the time, the force apologised for the clip being linked to the Black Lives Matters campaign.

But Suffolk Police Federation said the officers involved had been judged by the public without the full facts being known and "diligently considered".

Darren Harris, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said: "Whilst public scrutiny is expected, officers should never be subject to trial by social media.

"In this case we must note that when all the evidence has been diligently considered as part of an independent investigation, the actions of our colleagues have been found to be appropriate and proportionate.

He added: "Suffolk Police Federation has been supporting these officers since the incident gained prominence. We now look forward to continuing to support them as they go about their roles keeping the people of Suffolk safe."

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