Eight British Metropolitan police officers are under investigation after a Black woman claimed she was assaulted by multiple officers during her arrest in May.
The woman, a student in her 20s whose name has not been released, was a passenger in a car that was pulled over in south-east London on May 9. Footage of the incident, which was taken on a cellphone, captured an officer striking the woman repeatedly and shows her being pinned to the ground by six officers.
Details of the police investigation into the officers’ conduct and use-of-force was made public after the woman spoke to BBC about the incident.
“Eight officers have been served with notices advising them they are subject to investigation, with six officers at misconduct level and two officers at gross misconduct level,” the Independent Office for Police Conduct said in a statement.
The woman told BBC she was working on an essay and was going to pick up food when she ran into a friend and rode with him to an ATM.
Officers allegedly pulled the man over because he was driving erratically. He has since been charged with driving drunk. The woman said she was pulled out of the car before it had fully stopped.
“I just remember things turning like they looked a bit radioactive to me because I couldn’t… I knew that I was losing consciousness,” she told BBC.
She said the female officer who repeatedly punched her “smirked” when she told her that the officer holding her down was killing her.
“If you can talk, you can breathe,” the officer allegedly said in response.
“I was pinned down again, I’ll say about five, six, seven officers. I couldn’t breathe. I kept begging them to stop. It was the same officer that was punching me outside the restaurant who still went on to punch me while I was fully unclothed, and restrained for no justifiable reason. She just hit me about, I say, minimum eight times.”
The woman said she was lifted off the ground by her braids, some of which were ripped out of her scalp, before she was carried to the police van.
Arrested on suspicion of obstructing a drug search, the woman was strip-searched in front of male and female officers at the police station, which violates regulations.
“They didn’t even tell me they were going to strip-search me. It literally just happened when in the presence of the male and female officers with my cell door wide open, so people were passing,” she said, adding she believes the strip-search was done to humilitate and dehumanize her.
She said she was punched repeatedly by an officer while naked, and worried about the pressure being applied to her stomach, because she had recently had surgery.
Two of the eight officers under investigation have been placed on restricted duties.
“The Met continues to co-operate with the IOPC’s investigation team to ensure that all the facts are established,” the Metroplitian Police Department said.
The department also said it will investigate whether or not racial profiling and discrimination played a role in the incident.
“In the small minority of cases where force is used, an officer must properly record this and account for why the level of force used was lawful, proportionate and necessary in the circumstances,” Chief Superintendent Rob Atkin said.