A complainant alleged that he was grabbed by the throat, thrown onto a bed in his home and handcuffed by Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) officers who were in the process of executing a search warrant. The complainant asserted this conduct represented an unreasonable use of force by RCIPS officers.
Ombudsman investigators established that the officers had obtained a lawful warrant for the search. During the search, a police officer saw the complainant picking up a small plate holding an amount of white substance the officer believed was cocaine. RCIPS officers intervened to prevent the complainant from swallowing the substance. The complainant resisted the officers and continued to try to swallow the substance.
Following the struggle, the complainant was taken to hospital and it was determined he had suffered no serious injuries from the incident.
Section 153 of the Police Act allows an officer to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to effect an arrest. In doing so, an officer must have regard to the nature and gravity of the threat, as well as the potential for adverse consequences resulting from the use of force. In this case, it took a considerable amount of effort from RCIPS officers to restrain the complainant to prevent him from swallowing the substance and the Ombudsman found it was reasonable for the officers to believe the complainant would have done so, if not impeded.
The Ombudsman accepted the officers’ statements that they were concerned about the complainant’s health and safety and that they believed he was attempting to swallow something that appeared to be cocaine. The Ombudsman found that, if the officers had not restrained the complainant, he would likely have ingested the substance which was subsequently identified to be cocaine. The Ombudsman found that the force used was necessary and reasonable in these circumstances.
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