Let me start by saying I am a great supporter of the police and recognise what a difficult job they have. Sometimes what ever they do they are criticised for. I also speak as a former independent member of Cambridgeshire Police Authority.
On Thursday, a couple of us were travelling to Flempton golf course on the Haverhill to Bury St Edmunds A143 when I spotted a young man looking very distressed and with a head wound in the road. We turned around and went back to assist. I went to speak with him whilst my pal phoned 999.
It was clear this young man was a victim. He was distressed, had a significant cut to his head, claimed to have been hit by a van, claimed that two people had done harm to him and he was missing his phone. He was lurching around and repeatedly going into the road. I formed the opinion that he may have mental health issues so was wary of personal harm to myself. This concern became more acute when traffic flew by at high speed despite me trying to slow it down. One car even gave me the finger, astonishing really.
For 20 mins until the police arrived I spoke with this young man, keeping him calm and off the road for most of the time. I had forgotten how scary it can be stood on a 60mph road with traffic rushing past but I felt I had little choice if this young man was going to stay alive.
The first officer arrived and knew the young man by name. He was spooked by the officers as three cars arrived with blue lights and sirens and made a dash for it into the road. I was able to restrain him. Three officers attempted to take control of him and when they confirmed to me they had control I released him.
So what happened next? Somehow, this turned from this young man being a victim into him ending up in a roadside ditch with three officers rolling around on him, one putting his hand around his throat. I asked everyone to calm down repeatedly but it all raced out of control in a very predictable way. All this was supervised by a Sgt. When things had calmed down a little the Sgt quite rightly checked with each of his officers if they were alright. He did not ask the victim nor me, come to that, if we were ok. Nor did he seem interested in taking my details or hearing about what had happened.
How did a victim, with obvious head injuries, end up rolling around in a ditch with three police officers and a hand around his throat?
Vulnerable people sometimes need our support however difficult that might be. The Police have a difficult job to do but are there to serve the community including those who are vulnerable and who might be difficult. This felt all wrong. The balance of power was wrong. I suspect what ever history this young man had with the police may have clouded the response in an unhelpful way.
I have lodged a complaint with the police. The body cams have been looked at. I took a call yesterday from an inspector who agreed some of the things said to the vulnerable man made the situation worse and fired him off. It was agreed there are training issues to be dealt with. I am pressing for a formal complaint rather than just a word in the ear of the officers because I can’t see any justification for a police officer to put a hand around the throat of a member of the public who has been injured.
This vulnerable person told me no one had ever been kind to him before I helped him. I will always stick up for those less able to stick up for themselves. I await the next step in the complaints process.