Newham community officers face Met probe for ‘using police powers’

Community constabulary officers in one of England’s flagship boroughs for tackling antisocial behaviour are being investigated over allegations of inappropriate use of police powers.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair has asked for the investigation following allegations that officers in Newham Council’s antisocial behaviour team used warrant cards that were “virtual facsimiles” of those carried by Met officers.

The officers, who only have the same powers of arrest as members of the public, were also found to be wearing uniforms bearing the word “police” and using blue lights on vehicles, according to an internal council report.

The report by Amanda Kelly, former interim head of legal services at the east London council, said the uniform was in danger of contravening laws that make it illegal to impersonate a police officer.

While officers had no authority to carry weapons on the streets, the report uncovered allegations that one officer had threatened a member of the public with a baton, while another handcuffed a person “because he didn’t like the way [he] spoke to him”.

Another uniformed officer allegedly harassed his ex-partner while on duty and “co-opted” other officers in the harassment.

The report accused the constabulary of running “more like a private police force than a council service”, and raised concerns about anecdotal evidence that officers had stopped and searched members of the public, in breach of human rights.

Mike Law, a Conservative councillor in Newham, said community constables had made around 54 arrests, including for people being drunk and disorderly and begging.

Newham was the first council in England to have a multi-disciplinary division dedicated to tackling antisocial behaviour. It includes 33 community constables.

The crime and antisocial behaviour division was allocated 10m on top of its existing budget for 2004-6 by elected mayor Robin Wales in recognition of its commitment.

Newham chief executive Dave Burbage defended the council’s record on tackling antisocial behaviour and said an action plan had been put in place.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.