The Metropolitan police suspended an officer on Friday after a video went viral appearing to show him kneeling on the head and neck of a Black man who was subsequently charged with carrying a knife.
In one clip, the suspect, who is handcuffed and on the ground, can be seen shouting, “Get off my neck.” The Metropolitan police said the video was “extremely disturbing” and that they had suspended one officer and removed another from operational duty.
The case against them has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which will decide whether the case merits further investigation.
The IOPC, the professional body which sets standards for policing in the UK, has been adamant that officers are not supposed to apply pressure to the neck area except in exceptional circumstances.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who has oversight of the Met, said he was “deeply concerned about this distressing incident”, which unfolded at 6.30pm on Thursday on Isledon Road, near Finsbury Park underground station, in north London.
The video shows the suspect, Marcus Coutain, in a green T-shirt handcuffed and on the ground with two officers also present, seemingly trying to gain further control of him with one officer appearing to have his knee on the suspect’s neck for several seconds.
Coutain, 45, charged with possession of a knife in a public place will appear at Highbury Corner magistrates court on Saturday.
The force’s deputy commissioner, Steve House, said, “The video footage that I have seen today and is circulating on social media is extremely disturbing. I understand that many viewing the footage will share my concern.
“The man involved was arrested, taken to a police station and has now been seen by a police doctor. Some of the techniques used cause me great concern – they are not taught in police training.
“We have quickly assessed the incident, including the body-worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force. As a result we have referred the matter to the IOPC.
“One officer has been suspended and another officer has been removed from operational duty, but not suspended at this time. This decision will be kept under review.”
The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said the incident was “extremely concerning”. “It is right that it is quickly referred to the IOPC and an officer has been suspended,” he said. “I will be following this closely: we are policed by consent and that relies on the highest levels of respect and professionalism.”
Standards and policies for policing in England and Wales are set by the College of Policing.
A spokesperson for the college said, “Maintaining the safety and welfare of an individual under restraint is a priority for all police officers. National personal safety training for officers in England and Wales does not contain any restraint technique where officers apply pressure to the throat or neck area of a person.
“Officers are actively encouraged to avoid doing so due to the inherent dangers of putting pressure on the neck or throat, particularly during restraint.
“If officers believe that they or other members of the public are in imminent danger they are permitted to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to prevent that danger.”
Ever since a police officer in the US killed George Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes, and since the subsequent outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the police in Britain have been under intense scrutiny.
This video is the latest in a series on social media raising questions about police use of force and stop and search against members of ethnic minorities. It only tells part of the story, but was enough to stoke concern for Khan, who said his office had raised the issue with senior Met officers as a matter of urgency.
“I welcome the fact the incident has been reviewed quickly by the Met and it’s right that they have referred it to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. I look forward to a swift and thorough independent investigation, with all decisions made public. It’s crucial our police service continues to earn the trust of the communities it serves.”