Officers should not face 'trial by social media', police federation says


Two officers have been cleared of misconduct by the IOPC after a black couple in Ipswich were questioned (file photo) - Credit: IAN BURT

Suffolk Police Federation has said officers should not be subject to "trial by social media" after two of its colleagues were cleared of wrongdoing in a watchdog probe.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched an investigation after two officers quizzed a black couple in Ipswich on June 9 last year.

The exchange was recorded and watched more two million times online.

A still from the video filmed on the driveway in Ipswich, where two police officers stopped a black

A still from the video of the exhange, which was shared on social media - Credit: Archant

In the video, a woman and a man are questioned by two officers, who say they needed to confirm that the couple were the drivers of a vehicle that had been parked at a house.

The woman, who was filming, became more upset throughout the exchange before being accused by one officer of "jumping on the bandwagon", an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The couple were asked for identification but neither were searched or arrested following the incident.

Graham Beesley, regional director for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said: “This incident raised concerns about public confidence in policing and not least from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities."

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However, he said the officers' decision to approach the couple were objective and not based on racial profiling or discrimination.

"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," said Mr Beesley.

However, the IOPC said it was unfortunate that, for operational reasons ,the officers could not provide the couple with a full explanation as to why they were stopped.

Despite the ruling, Mr Beesley said: "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.” 

Darren Harris, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, defended the officers' actions during the exchange and said all evidence needs to be "diligently considered" before conclusions are made about police conduct.

Suffolk Police Federation Chairman Darren Harris. Picture: DARREN HARRIS/SUFFOLK POLICE FEDERATION

Darren Harris, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, defended the officers' actions - Credit: SUFFOLK POLICE FEDERATION

He 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.

"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."

The couple's daughter has said she is disappointed at the outcome of the investigation.