Police Challenge Decision Not To Sack Their Own Officer

PC Imran Aftab harassed woman jogging in Hammersmith

The British Transport Police officer was off duty at the time of the offence
The British Transport Police officer was off duty at the time of the offence

The British Transport Police (BTP) are contesting the decision of a independent panel not to dismiss an officer who sexually harassed a woman in Hammersmith.

PC Imran Aftab approached a lone female jogger in April last year and asked her to give her his phone number while showing her his warrant card. He attempted to hug the woman at a time when social distancing was in place and told her she was ‘too curvy to be Asian’. The actions of PC Aftab made the woman feel so uncomfortable that she texted "help me" to a friend. After the encounter he sent her six text messages which resulted in her lodging a complaint with the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

A hearing held in York this May decided he had breached the standards of professional behaviour and he was given a final written warning.

Now the BTP say they intend to take legal action over the misconduct panel’s decision.

A BTP spokesperson said, “We totally agree this was an appalling incident and as is the case in misconduct hearings, the decision not to dismiss PC Aftab was made by an independent panel, led by a legally qualified chair.

"We don't agree with their decision, and as such took legal advice immediately after the hearing in May before instigating a judicial review to appeal this. This is currently ongoing and we await the outcome.”

The system for police disciplinary matters was changed in 2015 by the then Home Secretary Theresa May who deemed that independent legally qualified chairs (LQCs) should make rulings rather than, as previously, chief constables.

The process for disciplining police officers has come under increased scrutiny after the murder of Sarah Everard. Wayne Couzens showed her his warrant card before raping and murdering her this March.

The Met is changing how lone officers in plain clothes will verify their identity and purpose to lone women.

Lone plain clothed officers, including those reacting to incidents whilst off-duty, must now proactively provide verification of their identity and purpose to any lone woman they need to engage with using a video call to a uniformed supervisor in a police operations room. This is in addition to showing their warrant card. The uniformed supervisor in the control room will conduct the necessary checks and provide reassurance that the officer is who they say they are and that they are acting appropriately. They will also ensure the encounter is properly recorded.

The video call will be made using the officer’s mobile device, but on the rare occasion they don’t have their device, such as when they are off duty, the officer will provide the woman with the telephone number to visually call the operations room directly. All local operations rooms have been equipped with a dedicated mobile device to make and receive these calls that utilise a range of popular video calling services including FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and Google Duo.

They can also call 999 directly, to ask for verification of an officer’s identification and reassurance from the police control room if they prefer this route - or if video calling is not available for any reason.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, Frontline Policing, said: “It is very unusual for a lone plain-clothed officer to engage with a lone woman. It is simply not how we usually operate but there are some rare circumstances where this could happen and we want to give all the reassurance we can.

“We know we need to regain women’s trust and we fully accept that the onus is on us to verify we are who we say we are and that we are acting appropriately - that’s why we’ve introduced this system.

“We hope that being able to see and speak to a uniformed colleague in what will very visibly be a police operations room, and know that there is a proper police record of the encounter, will provide the reassurance that we understand is necessary.”

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October 22, 2021