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Gross misconduct verdict given after Tonbridge Police Station senior police officer 'made a series of bad decisions'

A senior officer is on a final written warning after he left a detainee at risk of choking.

A panel said a series of bad decisions and unprofessional conduct had led Det Sgt Melwyn Moore, who was custody manager at Tonbridge Police Station, to appear before them this week.

Det Sgt Melwyn Moore with the Olympic torch in 2012. Picture: Roger Vaughan
Det Sgt Melwyn Moore with the Olympic torch in 2012. Picture: Roger Vaughan

He was found to have been discourteous and rude when booking Jamie Johnson into custody on New Year’s Eve 2016.

He failed to carry out a risk assessment or read Mr Johnson his rights, saying the detainee was too drunk in custody and would not give him a chance to speak.

Mr Johnson had been arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly outside The Barn pub in Tunbridge Wells.

Once in his cell Mr Johnson made a choking motion, all the while staring directly into a cell camera.

DS Moore, a Kent Police officer since 1994, joined two other officers in the cell.

Tonbridge Police Station
Tonbridge Police Station

The two officers tried to deal with the situation while DS Moore watched as a safety officer.

A fight ensued, during which DS Moore kicked the detainee moments after he fell into a wall and hit his head.

A panel said the kick was “instinctive”, while an expert witness from the IOPC ruled it was not an unlawful use of force.

Mr Johnson then bit DS Moore, who in turn punched him three times in the face.

DS Moore, who carried the Olympic torch in 2012, told the panel: “He was biting me at the time, when he released his grip I stopped punching him."

"This was a series of bad decisions and unprofessional behaviour from the very person who was responsible for the welfare of people in his custody..."

There was no allegation of misconduct in relation to the punches and the panel found the kick did not amount to discreditable conduct.

As officers restrained Mr Johnson the panel heard he began to shout that he could not breathe.

An officer suggested putting the detainee on his side, DS Moore then shouted wait.

DS Moore told the panel he shouted wait so he could calm the situation down.

The veteran officer then agreed Mr Johnson should be placed in handcuffs.

Officers exited the cell and left the detainee face down and handcuffed, against Kent Police protocol.

Speaking at the misconduct hearing, DS Moore said: “I accept that was an error of judgment. Had I decided to keep him in handcuffs for his own safety I should have increased his observation levels.”

The panel said there was a serious risk of positional asphyxia to Mr Johnson.

A report published by DS Moore later said the detainee was “safe and well,” when they left the cell and made no reference to kicking the detainee.

The panel found DS Moore had failed in his duties and responsibilities to accurately report both matters, but stopped short of saying he had breached honesty and integrity guidelines.

Hours after the incident DS Moore posted a picture of his head injury on Facebook writing: “Enjoy your day in the cells scumbag. I’ll see you in court.”

Mr Johnson did appear in court in May 2017, charged with being drunk and disorderly and two counts of assaulting an officer.

The case was dismissed.

Chair of the panel Jane Jones said the post “spoke volumes about his attitude to one such person”.

“Police professionals know better than to think anything on the internet is private, someone will take offence and someone did.

“Online friends are not real friends.”

DS Moore had previously accepted the misconduct case against him in relation to the Facebook post.

Finding an overall case of gross misconduct, Mrs Jones said: “This was a series of bad decisions and unprofessional behaviour from the very person who was responsible for the welfare of people in his custody.

“One bad decision lead to another and the fact is it was all of his making.”

Edmund Gritt, representing the officer, told the panel: “Some of these allegations occur in the wake of a blow to the officer’s head and a bite to the leg. I’d ask the panel to bare in mind his injuries did not provoke an angry or vengeful response for his part. The blow to head was further limiting his decision making, that’s of particular relevance.”

Supt John Phillips, from Kent Police, said: "The highest standards of professionalism are expected from all Kent Police officers and the vast majority of officers serve the public with integrity and diligence.

"It is regrettable that Sgt Moore fell short of these established standards and it is only right that his actions were scrutinised by an independent panel, who have determined a fair and proportionate course of action."

Read more: All the latest news from Tonbridge.


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