A mother was wrongfully arrested and detained by two Metropolitan Police officers in front of her distressed child after she was falsely accused of dodging a bus fare.
Footage circulating on social media showed the young boy crying while separated from his parent as she shouted: “What the hell, get off me, what are you doing? What the f*** is going on?”
Police said they arrested the woman in Croydon, south London, on Friday, 21 July, after she failed to confirm with a revenue inspector that she had paid her bus fare.
In a statement, the Met Police said the video was only a “snapshot” of the incident, and that the woman had become “abusive” before being arrested for fare evasion.
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It later emerged that she had paid and was de-arrested and released back to her child.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said that officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command were supporting TfL ticket inspectors on a pre-planned operation in Windmill Road.
He said: “Anyone without a valid ticket is required to provide their details to a TfL inspector so a penalty fare can be issued. This is not a policing matter. Officers only become involved where details are not provided or where someone tries to leave when challenged.
“The woman involved in this incident was asked to provide her ticket as she got off the bus, but did not do so. She was spoken to by a TfL inspector, then by a PCSO and finally by a police officer. She continued to try to walk away and did not provide her ticket for inspection.”
He added that the child was comforted by a PCSO and that the force “regret” any impact the incident may have had upon him.
The police watchdog have now been called to review footage of the incident and the circumstances around it.
Labour MP for Vauxhall Florence Eshalomi tweeted: “There is a distressing video circulating online with a woman handcuffed in front of her young son.
“Please be careful sharing this online to help protect this young boy who is very traumatised by the situation. Myself and other colleges have raised this with the Mayor of London.”
Fellow MP Claudia Webbe said: “The most disrespected person is the black woman. The most unprotected person is the black woman. The most neglected person is the black woman.
“The Met Police is the boot of the state; they do not care about black people, and black women in particular.”
With the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to investigate, Detective Chief Superintendent Christina Jessah said on Monday: “We know that this is a distressing video to watch, even more so as a child is seen to be visibly upset by the way in which his mother has been apprehended. We regret the upset that has been caused to the child.
“A PCSO (police community support officer) can be seen comforting the child; however, we know that this does not take away from the impact that this will have on him.
“We are seeking to make contact with the female in question to understand the wider circumstances.
“Given the level of public concern we will ask the Independent Office for Police Conduct to review the circumstances shown in the video clip.
“We are currently working with the local senior police teams and Transport for London.”
In a statement, the Met Police said: “We are aware of a video circulating showing a female being handcuffed by police. Officers from the Roads and Transport Policing Command were conducting a joint revenue protection operation with Transport for London inspectors in Whitehorse Road, Croydon, on Friday, 21 July.
“One woman left the bus after not complying with a revenue inspector’s request to check that she had paid her fare. When asked to stop by police she attempted to walk off and became abusive. As a result, she was arrested on suspicion of fare evasion and detained.
“When it was later established that the woman had paid she was de-arrested and allowed to go on her way.
“The woman was with her child and we appreciate that the video and circumstances look concerning. However, it is a snapshot of a wider incident. The video from this incident and the officer’s body-worn video, which was active for a longer period than the social media clip, have been reviewed.
“Our officers regularly liaise with local community groups and forums and we will be discussing the matter with them and listening to their views.”