When shaking one's head at how two experienced officers find themselves in this predicament, it is worth considering the following:
- As a custody officer, PS Kennedy was well aware of the CCTV live and recording in his suite.
- Two other PCs and a Gaoler were acquitted, so it seems likely the jury considered the case quite carefully and did not brand all five as automatically guilty.
- One of the acquitted PCs stated "I wish we were trained better" and that she had no idea restraining someone's arms in the position used was not acceptable.
One of the challenges I now face as a sergeant is taking a step back from fraught situations and assessing what my team is doing. When you attend a fight and end up rolling on the floor, a crazed drunken assailant using every muscle in their body to lash out and kick at you - or their intended victim - adrenalin shoots up. It takes considerable presence of mind and more training than one day a year to keep a grip of your sense of proportion.
This prisoner is fighting with every inch of his breath.
This one is dead.
It's not as easy as you'd think to tell the difference.
Which is why, as a sergeant, I will often stand back from the struggle (unless my colleagues need help, obviously), and give instructions to release holds or move the prisoners' arms into a different position. Not because my PCs are deliberately roughing the person up, but because in the melee they may not have registered when the shouts of "FUCK OFF COPPER" changed to "OWWWW OK LET GO I'LL STOP". I am no better trained than they are, and I'm just as human, but I have the privilege and responsibility of being the cool head amid the panic. If I've had to get stuck in, I'll get unstuck as soon as I can, catch my breath and have a look at what I've got.
Ugly but justified on the street.
Maybe unacceptable in custody.
The above is why you have a custody officer at the police station, in case there's no cool head left in the chaos. The custody sergeant is independent from the investigation, not involved in the scuffle on the street, sitting behind an unmoving and objective desk, in a cool air-conditioned (er, maybe) office. When the street-fighters erupt into his/her suite, the sergeant should immediately take control. If he/she thinks that the officers are still affected by whatever violence they have faced outside the door and may be overreacting to the lesser violence offered in the safety of custody, the sergeant should interject. It is even appropriate to send away the arresting officers and try to find another officer to book them in, to give the prisoner a chance to calm down. In the case of Amy Keigher, the sergeant's job was not only to protect the prisoner, however vile she may have been, but also to save PC Hanvey from himself.
Unfortunately, Sergeant Kennedy chose to tell Amy Keigher she should expect to be hurt, and hence faces the same jail time as the officer who threatened and restrained her excessively. He also falsified custody log entries and failed to give either of two prisoners their rights. Which can't have helped his case.
I am sure that there was another side to Amy Keigher- though it's worth pointing out she didn't want the officers prosecuted. Either way, once in custody and without her liberty, she was vulnerable, and that requires iron-clad compassion from her detainers. The hard thing for the front-line police officer is not to hold the un-detained side of someone against them once the prisoner has lost the fight. It is a fine line, because if you relax your guard too much, you may be assaulted. (It is probably fair to say, however, that there aren't many situations in which threatening to rip off someone's skull whilst they are in the grip of 3-4 officers is going to be acceptable.)
It is easy to toss around words like 'professionalism' and 'objectivity'. Most people have no idea whether they have those things or not, because they have never had to test them in a heightened physical situation. As a police officer, at some point in your career you will discover what qualities you possess. Hopefully you find out soon enough to obtain whatever it is you are lacking, and before you land yourself in prison.
I have no sympathy for the convicted officers, but I feel sorry for the police.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.