Mar 4, 2011
Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) firearms officer AZ8 is to face misconduct action after an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) managed investigation found he made a crass remark to a senior officer about inserting song titles into evidence he gave at the Mark Saunders inquest.
The investigation found however that on the balance of probabilities he, neither acting alone or in conspiracy with other officers, deliberately inserted song titles into his evidence. A senior officer will also face action for his mishandling of the situation.
The investigation, conducted by officers from the MPS Directorate of Professional Standards under the direction of the IPCC, spoke to colleagues of AZ8, witnesses who were in the Coroner’s Court at the time as well as reviewing the transcript of evidence.
AZ8 had given evidence to the inquest on Monday 27 September 2010 where he outlined his role in the police operation that resulted in the fatal shooting of Mark Saunders. When he left the witness box he entered a room where other firearms officers were waiting and was greeted by a senior officer.
The investigation found that AZ8 made a remark to the senior officer about "getting in two song titles”, something confirmed by officer AZ2. The senior officer also recalled a specific reference from AZ8 to George Michael - a review of AZ8’s evidence found reference to only one George Michael song, ‘Faith’.
The investigation concluded that AZ8 had not deliberately inserted song titles into his evidence. However, he did make a comment to a senior officer to the effect that he had. By making the insensitive comment and causing a colleague, and subsequently the public, to believe that he and/or other officers may have inserted song titles into evidence, he acted in a manner that brought the MPS into disrepute. It is on this basis that the investigation found he has a case to answer for misconduct.
As part of its terms of reference the investigation also looked at the response of the senior officer to whom AZ8 made the insensitive comment, to see if it was appropriate.
In relation to the actions of the senior officer it was found he had immediately informed the MPS lawyer and counsel. However, two later meetings he had with AZ8, where he sought to address the comment and swearing during testimony, were confused and lacked clarity. On this specific point it is found that the senior officer mishandled the situation and action will now be taken by the MPS to address this.
IPCC Commissioner Tom Davies, said:
"My thoughts continue to go out to the family of Mark Saunders. It will bring them no great relief that this investigation has established that evidence given at the inquest was not callously or insensitively undermined. Instead of being able to close a chapter of their grief when the inquest concluded and focus on their memories of Mark, an ill thought out comment caused them even more anguish.
"Although the investigation did not conclude that AZ8 deliberately inserted song titles into his evidence, he created distress and anger simply by making the comment to a senior officer. It is on this basis the investigation finds AZ8 has a case to answer for misconduct. The way this will be dealt with will be agreed in the near future.
"This crass remark led to the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service being tainted and public confidence tested. From my conversations with them I know there is deep regret and it is their intention to offer a further apology to the family for the hurt caused.”
Prior to the inquest the MPS had given principal officers involved two weeks off regular duties to prepare. During this time they were to read the relevant policies and procedures relating to the police use of firearms, as well as prepare the evidence they would give about their actions in Markham Square. AZ8 said that in these two weeks he became highly stressed.
Although he had no recollection of making the comment about inserting song titles to the Senior officer , AZ8 did not dispute or deny that he had. He said following giving evidence, which ended a period of time he found extremely stressful he experienced a surge of adrenalin, which resulted in him appearing to make a flippant remark on impulse and as an act of bravado. He also said he was not sufficiently ‘intelligent’ or ‘quick-witted’ to have been able to deliberately insert song titles into his evidence.
The only George Michael song found in AZ8’s testimony was ‘Faith’ and this featured in the following two exchanges with Counsel:
Counsel: Were you aware that there were other armed officers in Bywater Street? You obviously knew about them at 1, because you had been there?
AZ8: "I was aware there was a containment in, and you have got to have faith that they’re going to be covering the threat as well”
Counsel: "You weren’t, were you, making a show of force to Mr Saunders?”
AZ8: "No, because he couldn’t see me and I had faith in the other containment positions that they were covering me while I was doing this, and not carrying or taking cover, you know, behind windows and stuff or brickwork because their job is containment, which is to contain the gentleman”
A search of his evidence found six other songs by artists other than George Michael. They were:
Enough is enough by Donna Summer
Self preservation by The Lucksmiths
My old boots by Membranes
In the line of fire by Dogwood
Quiet moments by Chris De Burgh
Point of no return by Immortal Technique
Overall the investigation found they are all everyday, colloquial words and phrases that had legitimate and relevant meaning to the inquest, wholly separate from being song titles. The context of where and how these phrases were used, and AZ8’s intonation, did not give rise to any suspicion that any game was being played.
Tom Davies added:
"An armed police officer is a uniquely complex role and this case demonstrates that its requirements go beyond a person’s capability to make a split second decision in a life threatening situation. The findings of this investigation prompt questions that go beyond what it set out to achieve, namely whether something was said and its possible intentions. Questions about AZ8’s suitability to be a firearms officer and the force’s vetting, assessment and welfare systems must be asked. I have discussed these matters with the force and I know it is their intention to review these matters.”
The investigation also looked at the transcripts of evidence given by a number of other officers. There was only one other apparent George Michael song reference found -‘Patience’, which was used by a trained negotiator. The only other song references that were found were ‘Red wine’ and ‘If’. The investigation concluded that all were common words or phrases that were relevant and salient in the context of the inquest, and that no conspiracy therefore existed between AZ8 and any other police witnesses.
In relation to the senior officer he took prompt action by informing the MPS lawyer and counsel, and arranging a meeting with AZ8 for the following day. During this meeting and a second meeting after the Inquest the senior officer addressed:
- AZ8’s use of crass humour as a coping mechanism;
- Concerns about how AZ8 would deal with future incidents; and
- Stopping AZ8 from attending a firearms course he was due to attend.
However, the investigation found the senior officer mishandled the situation by not questioning AZ8 further to fully establish if there was any truth to the song titles comment. He also should have informed a more senior officer before the 28 October, when he received a call from the IPCC asking about rumours generated by AZ8’s comment. Action will now be taken regarding this underperformance.
For further information please contact Neil Coyte IPCC Press Office 020 7166 3978
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