Police watchdog launches investigation after officer accused of forcibly removing Sikh head covering

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The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has launched an investigation after an officer was accused of forcibly removing the religious head covering of a Sikh man while he was in custody.

“Racially motivated”

The police watchdog announced the probe after a complaint was made against West Midlands Police. The IOPC said the complaint claims officers’ actions towards the Sikh man were “racially motivated”. It follows an incident at Perry Barr custody suite, just outside of Birmingham city centre, on 25 October.

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In a statement, West Midlands Police said a video compilation was published on social media which “infers that one of the stills included shows a man having his turban forcibly removed and stamped on” while in custody. Both the force and the IOPC have said the footage is inaccurate.

Expanding further, a statement from West Midlands Police said:

The author has used an image from elsewhere giving an entirely misleading version of the events. The CCTV featured in this video is not connected to this incident.

We can confirm that a man in custody was asked to remove his patka to be searched. It was removed by an officer in a private room to search for anything that could be harmful to the man or our custody officers. The head covering fell to the floor at one point, but was immediately retrieved and at no point was it stamped on.

It added all CCTV footage of the officer’s interactions with the man is being examined further, and that it understands the religious significance of head coverings in the Sikh faith.

“Understandable unrest”

IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said:

This incident has caused understandable unrest within the local community and I want to reassure everyone that this will be thoroughly and independently investigated.

We are now in possession of all the CCTV footage from the custody suite, which I have viewed myself. Our investigation will look at the actions of police during the incident to determine the facts.

What I can say with absolute certainty at this stage, in direct response to questions I have received from members of the local community, is that the head covering was not stamped on at any stage.

A false video shared on social media has caused significant concern for many and I am appealing for calm while this is investigated. Rest assured we will be working hard to ensure the facts of what happened are brought to light and this matter is dealt with appropriately.

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