Police struggle at Walthamstow bus station showed “lack of professionalism”

A viral video of police officers wrestling with two teenagers at Walthamstow bus station showed a “lack of professionalism”, a panel of residents and local officers has said.

The new police encounter panel (PEP), tasked with reviewing widely-viewed videos of public encounters with police, recently looked at an incident on the evening of 31 May.

Footage of the incident showed two police officers trying to handcuff a 16-year-old teenager who is struggling on the floor while some members of the public try to intervene.

In a second struggle next to them, two officers are sitting on the floor and holding a second 16-year-old by his legs as he sits on a bench and repeatedly tries to pull away

After reviewing evidence from the incident including the officers’ body-worn cameras the panel of residents and local officers said the police response “required improvement”.

Rather than “reacting to provocation” from the youths, the panel said, the officers should have focused on “de-escalation” and used a calmer demeanour.

The panel added: “At times a lack of professionalism was noted and there were clear deficits in the capability and confidence of some officers, which had a direct impact on the safety of the officers and the public.”

However, the panel said the social media footage “does not fully reflect” the earlier part of the incident, when the bus driver alleged that he was “threatened” by the youths.

Furthermore, the panel found the interventions from members of the public – which included a woman pulling an arresting officer by his collar – were “inappropriate” and impacted the welfare of the youths as well as the officers.

The panel’s statement was released by Detective Superintendent Simon Crick, who oversees the Metropolitan Police in Waltham Forest and Newham.

DCI Crick said the panel’s review showed a willingness to improve and the Met’s “absolute drive for transparency” in relation to police actions.

However, the videos and information shown to the panel have not been published and the panel’s statement was only made public after local MP Stella Creasy shared it on a local Facebook group.

Members of Waltham Forest’s Stop and Search Group, which already reviews randomly-selected body-worn footage of stop and searches on a monthly basis, have questioned why the Met has created a new “overlapping” panel to review videos.

At a meeting on Monday July 3, inspector Kamran Quereshi did not respond directly to the group’s concerns about creating a new group to review videos.

But the inspector said the panel is able to see “sensitive information” that is not usually released to the public and make recommendations for investigating officers to “consider”.

He added: “A lot of what [the panel] sees is unjustified actions at times where we were unprofessional, but equally at times there are incidents that were justified – it allows real-time videos and provides greater transparency.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter