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Police watchdog: Custody sergeant 'overstepped the mark' in unauthorised 'intimate search' on suspected drug dealer

By Alex Moore | Crime | Published:

A custody sergeant “overstepped the mark” by performing an unauthorised “intimate search” on a suspected class-A drug dealer, a report from the police watchdog says.

West Mercia Police referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), and have agreed to provide refresher training for officers handling detainees.

An IOPC report says the sergeant was permitted to strip search the suspect due to their demeanour and history but proceeded to carry out a more thorough search “without appropriate authorisation”.

The case, which took place last October, was referred to the England and Wales watchdog by the West Mercia force, whose territory incorporates Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Worcestershire.

The IOPC summary says: “In December 2018 West Mercia Police referred a recordable conduct matter to us regarding the strip search of a man arrested in October on suspicion of supplying class-A drugs.

“The man was transported to a custody facility and, due to his demeanour and previous warning markers, a strip search was authorised.

“The force referred this matter to us due to concerns that the techniques used by the custody sergeant may not have been acceptable.”

Investigators examined the custody log and interviewed the custody sergeant and the detainee.

“In our opinion, the custody sergeant had intended to conduct a strip search and had unwittingly extended beyond the parameters and performed an intimate search without appropriate authorisation,” the report says.

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“We did not believe there was evidence the custody sergeant had deliberately sought to conduct an intimate search without authorisation.

"We were also of the opinion that there weren’t enough reasons to conduct an intimate search – even though the custody sergeant stated he performed the search with the welfare of the detainee in mind.

“Based on the evidence available, we were of the opinion that the custody sergeant may have a case to answer for misconduct.

“Our investigation highlighted a need for the force to implement additional or refresher training for officers who move into a custody environment, to be delivered before they commence their roles.

“After reviewing our report, West Mercia Police agreed the sergeant had breached the standards of professional behaviour.

“The force considered that the sergeant had acted in good faith and had demonstrated a degree of insight, reflecting on his actions, and conceded he had overstepped the mark. They proposed to deal with this through management action.”

Alex Moore

By Alex Moore
@TelfordLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Telford.

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