Former senior officer barred for ‘bullyish’ and ‘aggressive’ behaviour

A former senior officer who attempted to influence and intimidate officers who responded to a domestic incident has been barred from policing following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Apr 25, 2024
By Paul Jacques

Chief Superintendent David Powell’s behaviour was described as “inappropriate”, “bullyish” and “aggressive” by officers at the scene.

A disciplinary hearing ruled this week that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary officer would have been dismissed without notice for gross misconduct had he not retired from the force in March this year.

The IOPC began its investigation after receiving a conduct referral from the force in September 2022.

It was established that on September 11, 2022, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary officers attended a report of a domestic incident in Kings Worthy, Winchester.

“Officers were informed that a reported assault had taken place and there were witnesses at the address,” said the IOPC.

“One of the witnesses was Chief Supt Powell, who was off-duty and did not initially identify himself or his rank to attending officers, although he was recognised by some of them.

“While officers were speaking with both the victim and suspect of the reported assault, Chief Supt Powell attempted to have private conversations with officers on scene and repeatedly insisted that ‘no crime had been committed’ and questioned whether any formal allegations had been made by the victim. He later admitted he did not witness the assault.”

At one point he said to officers, “I know your job because I’m a cop”, and challenged the officers’ understanding of the force’s domestic violence policy.

When the police sergeant in charge informed him that the suspect was being arrested on suspicion of committing an offence, Chief Supt Powell said “that’s a crap decision. That decision doesn’t need to be made tonight”.

The IOPC said he also insisted on speaking to the victim alone, leaving officers concerned that he “may have been trying to persuade them from making a formal complaint”.

It added that various officers present described Chief Supt Powell’s behaviour as “inappropriate”, “bullyish” and “aggressive”. At one point the sergeant in charge is heard on body-worn footage saying to a colleague that Chief Supt Powell was “trying to control the whole situation and it’s not appropriate”.

Following the incident, Chief Supt Powell contacted the force’s senior investigating officer who at the time was coordinating and supporting Hampshire’s investigation command. He requested they provide him with the contact details of the senior officer overseeing the assault investigation.

During its investigation, the IOPC reviewed police body-worn video footage, relevant policies and procedures, gathered statements from the police officers present and interviewed Chief Supt Powell.

“After completing our investigation in October 2023, we decided that Chief Supt Powell should face a disciplinary hearing for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour relating to authority, respect and courtesy; duties and responsibilities, and discreditable conduct,” the IOPC said.

Following a two-day disciplinary hearing, the panel found the former officer’s conduct breached the police standards of professional behaviour and his actions amounted to gross misconduct. He will be placed on the police barred list.

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “As a senior officer who was not on duty, Chief Supt Powell’s behaviour at the scene was highly inappropriate and an abuse of power.

“He tried to intimidate the officers and use his position to attempt to dissuade the officers from arresting the suspect of a domestic assault.

“The seriousness of his actions was exacerbated by his senior rank and level of responsibility, as he was the force’s strategic lead for domestic violence matters at the time. His behaviour was not compatible with his role as a senior police officer and he has been barred from policing.

“I also want to commend the officers at the scene for their professionalism and integrity. They refused to let Chief Supt Powell’s seniority influence their decision making.”

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary Deputy Chief Constable Sam de Reya commended the “moral courage of those officers who remained calm and professional throughout the incident in extremely challenging circumstances, and had the confidence to call out the appalling behaviour of a very senior officer”.

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