A Metropolitan Police officer is under criminal investigation for alleged racially aggravated assault and false imprisonment after a woman was wrongly arrested for bus fare evasion in front of her young son.
Watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said the officer is also under investigation for potential gross misconduct.
The woman’s arrest in Whitehorse Road, Croydon, south London, on July 21 prompted criticism after footage was posted on social media of her shouting as she was handcuffed in front of her tearful son.
She was later de-arrested when it was confirmed that she had paid the fare.
IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “The decision to conduct a criminal investigation is not something we take lightly and was made after careful consideration of the material we have gathered to date, including liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“It’s important to emphasise that this development does not necessarily mean that criminal charges or disciplinary proceedings will follow.
“At the conclusion of the investigation, we will decide whether to refer a file of evidence to the CPS for a charging decision and also decide whether any officers should face disciplinary proceedings.
“Representatives for the woman and the officer have been advised of this update and we will keep them informed throughout our investigation.”
Officer under investigation in Croydon fare evasion arrest incident
— Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) (@policeconduct) October 23, 2023
The woman was arrested after wrongly being accused of failing to pay a bus fare, with police saying she had refused to show her pass to a Transport for London (TfL) ticket inspector.
A family member complained to the IOPC, claiming the woman had been racially profiled and verbally abused by an officer, and the woman herself has also complained about the way that she and her son were treated.
The watchdog is investigating the decision to arrest her, whether the force used was proportionate, whether the woman and her son were treated differently because they are black, and whether the woman was treated differently because of her sex.
It is continuing to appeal for witnesses to contact the investigation team at email@example.com or 0300 303 5731.
Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain, who leads policing in Croydon, said: “This incident caused a great deal of concern in the community when it happened and when a video showing part of the events was shared on social media.
“The incident was clearly distressing for the woman involved and particularly her child.”
A PCSO attempted to comfort the little boy while the officers arrested his mother.
Mr Brittain added: “As the IOPC has stated, the launching of a criminal or misconduct investigation is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing and we await its conclusions after all the available evidence has been gathered and fully examined.”
The officer under investigation is on restricted duties.