The constable is being investigated for potential criminal offences related to racially aggravated assault and false imprisonment, The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has confirmed.
The incident happened on 21 July in Croydon, south London. She was de-arrested and the handcuffs were removed after it was confirmed she had paid the fare. A video of the incident went viral on social media.
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.”
The watchdog’s investigation began following a complaint referral from the Met Police three days after the incident took place.
The complaint, which was made by a family member on the woman’s behalf, alleged that she was racially profiled and verbally abused by an officer.
The incident sparked an anti-racism protest outside of the local police station days later. Benjamin Clement, 53, who filmed the woman’s arrest was at the demonstration and told The Independent: “I saw just another Black person being abused by the police.”
“I just couldn’t believe the way they were handling the woman. They were trying to get her onto the floor at one point – she was so distressed and it just seemed like no one cared. Everyone was just standing around watching. So, I felt like I had to start filming.”
During the IOPC investigation, further complaints were received from the woman involved relating to the treatment she and her son received during the incident.
The investigation is looking into the actions of police officers and staff during their interactions with the woman and her son, including the decision to arrest the woman, whether the force used was reasonable, necessary and 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.
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 Police Community Support Officer 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.
The IOPC is continuing to appeal for witnesses to contact the investigation team at email@example.com or 0300 303 5731.