A bullying sergeant who threatened to lock up a man for taking pictures of a dented car after a road smash has been condemned by a police commissioner.
The traffic officer, who gave his name as Sgt Tony Wallace, seized the 26-year-old photographer’s camera as he took pictures of the aftermath of an accident and told him: ‘You’re lucky I didn’t knock you out.’
He approached the man at the scene of the car smash in Churchdown, Gloucestershire, swore at him, and told him he would arrest him for obstructing a police officer, threatening to ‘make your day a living hell’.
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A photographer who took this image of the aftermath of a car crash was told by a policeman he would ‘make his life hell’
This still from the photographer’s mobile phone footage (his subtitles) shows the policeman taking his details
A still from the photographer’s YouTube clip – the officer told him he was not allowed to take photographs
Today Martin Surl, Gloucestershire’s Police Commissioner, said the officer appeared to have ‘fallen far short of the behaviour expected and required’ by the police.
The incident began when the photographer, who does not wish to be named, took photographs of a damaged car after an accident involving an elderly woman, who had been taken to hospital before he got there.
An hour later, the photographer walked past a dented car still at the scene, and was taking some photographs of it from the other side of the road when he was approached by Sgt Wallace.
The policeman’s aggressive attitude prompted him to film the episode on his mobile phone, and he later posted the footage on YouTube.
The clip begins with the caption: ‘He takes the camera out of my hands, gets right in my face to the point where he’s spitting at me, swears at me several times, says the camera is being seized and I am going to be arrested for obstructing a police officer.
The officer is seen demanding the photographer’s camera and saying he can’t have it back unless he deletes the pictures
The photographer insisted that the road was open to pedestrians when he took his pictures
‘After about a minute or two of this confrontation I got my phone out but was afraid he would seize this too. However he didn’t, and I began filming in a subtle way.’
The Scottish-sounding officer is recorded telling the photographer: ‘We’ll nick you now and I will make your day a living hell, cause you’ll be in that cell all day.
‘What I’ll probably do is I will ask for you to be remanded in custody and I will put you before the magistrate…. and they’ll be like, what a t** you’ve been.’
The officer can also be heard telling the photographer: ‘You’re lucky that I didn’t knock you out. I swore at you, yeah. It got your attention, though, didn’t it?’
The sergeant seized the man’s camera, told him he had to delete the images on it, and then stood over him as he scrolled through them before agreeing he could keep them all.
Police officer threatens make photographer’s life ‘living hell’
The man, who insists he only began taking pictures long after anyone injured in the accident had left the scene, later posted a 12-minute clip of the confrontation online.
In the film, he stressed he had no knowledge of what had happened in the accident, and said he was merely taking photographs of a damaged car once the police tape around the scene had been removed.
Today he said he believed he was being unfairly arrested when he was confronted by Sgt Wallace.
‘If I had gone through the police tape, then he should have arrested me, but I didn’t: they removed the tape because they were packing up, you can see all the other people freely walking about.
‘I thought I would take some pictures to submit to the papers. I thought it was a very minor incident and they papers might use a small thumbnail if they decided to run an article.’
He added: ‘Of course now I know it was not a minor event, and someone later died. But I didn’t, and would never, take pictures of the victims or their family.’
‘Because I hadn’t captured anything insensitive at all, and he knew it, it made the entire 15 minute interaction completely pointless.’
The YouTube footage, which has been viewed more than 10,000 times, includes a map of where the accident happened in Churchdown, Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire police commissioner Martin Surl, seen here with the force’s Chief Constable, Suzette Davenport, has condemned the officer’s actions
Today Gloucestershire police said the officer involved was now facing a misconduct probe.
Mr Surl, a former police superintendent with Gloucestershire constabulary before he became Commissioner, said he had asked the force to investigate the matter ‘with the utmost urgency’.
He said: ‘It appears the officer involved has fallen far short of the behaviour expected and required by the Constabulary.
‘I have only seen the public-facing evidence, but it appears the officer swore at a member of the public, followed that up by saying he was lucky not to have been assaulted by the police, threatened him with arrest, mistreatment and a remand in custody.
‘I appreciate the work of the police can be very challenging, but no matter what the situation they should deal with the public in a civil and responsible manner at all times.
‘It appears the officer swore at a member of the public, followed that up by saying he was lucky not to have been assaulted by the police, threatened him with arrest, mistreatment and a remand in custody.’
- Martin Surl, Gloucestershire Police Commissioner
‘It is the responsibility of the Chief Constable to manage complaints against police officers; my role is to hold the police to account.’
Mr Surl added: ‘I hope this incident will not cause the public to lose faith in the good work done every day by the majority of hard working, dedicated officers which is why I have asked for this issue to be dealt-with with the utmost urgency.’
The amateur photographer posted the video hours after the incident on 19 November and it has been viewed more than 10,000 times.
He said: ‘I turned up there and I started taking pictures. It’s round the corner from where I live and I thought as I was local, I might as well get some photos. I know I’m allowed to take pictures on public land.
‘At the time there was no police tape cordoning off the road, the ambulance had gone, everyone had gone.’
The 86 year-old woman who was knocked down was treated at the scene but died later at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.
Gloucestershire police said: ‘All police officers in Gloucestershire take an oath to ‘serve the public with respect to all people’.
‘Any officer found to breach this oath or any allegations or complaints made about officers are thoroughly and robustly investigated.’