Officer who used ‘excessive force’ on man in custody sacked for gross misconduct

A Cambridgeshire Constabulary officer who used “excessive” force on a man in custody has been dismissed for gross misconduct following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.

May 13, 2024
By Paul Jacques

Sergeant Gregory Wyss was also found to have used “completely unacceptable” discriminatory language and treated the man less favourably due to his ethnicity.

The IOPC investigation began in February 2021 after the force referred a complaint it received from the man relating to the force used on him by the officer.

It established that on January 2, 2021, a Polish man was arrested by Cambridgeshire officers and was taken to the custody suite at Thorpe Wood police station in Peterborough. The man was asked to provide his fingerprints but he was uncooperative and refused to provide his fingerprint samples.

“CCTV from the custody suite and body-worn video (BWV) footage shows that Sgt Wyss then entered the room, shouting, swearing and making threats at the man,” the IOPC said.

“Sgt Wyss used force on the man including slapping the back of his head and striking him in the back, as he told the man to stop resisting.

“During the struggle the man’s knee struck another officer in the groin. He was taken to the floor and told to put his hands behind his back so that he could be handcuffed and Sgt Wyss struck him in the back with a baton when he did not comply.

“While the man was on the ground Sgt Wyss then sprayed PAVA into the man’s eyes at very close range. He was handcuffed by the officers and further arrested for assaulting a police officer. Sgt Wyss and other officers attempted to take the man’s fingerprints by force and he was then taken into a cell.

“After the man – who is not a native English speaker and had a noticeable accent – was moved into a cell, Sgt Wyss queried whether the man’s behaviour ‘was a f***ing pastime from Poland or Lithuania or wherever he is from’.

No charges were brought against the man for assaulting a police officer.

As part of its investigation, the IOPC interviewed Sgt Wyss, obtained statements from the other officers who were present, reviewed BWV footage and CCTV footage from the custody suite as well as seizing items that were used by Sgt Wyss.

Following the conclusion of the investigation in June 2021, a file of evidence was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which authorised charges of racially aggravated assault by beating and assault by beating, along with a third charge of administering a poison or noxious thing.

In July 2022, Sgt Wyss was found not guilty of the assault charges at Cambridge Crown Court. The third charge was dropped by the prosecution ahead of the trial.

“The force also agreed with our decision that Sgt Wyss should face a gross misconduct hearing for allegedly breaching the police standards of professional behaviour relating to use of force; authority, respect and courtesy; and equality and diversity – which related to his use of discriminatory language and for treating the man less favourably at least in part because he was Eastern European,” the IOPC said.

On Friday (May 10), the panel found that all allegations against Sgt Wyss were proven and his actions amounted to gross misconduct. He was dismissed without notice and will be placed on the police barred list.

IOPC regional director Charmaine Arbouin said: “Police officers are permitted to use force in certain situations, however any force used must be reasonable and proportionate.

“The evidence clearly showed that Sgt Wyss’ use of force was excessive and his actions were unacceptable. His use of discriminatory language was completely unacceptable and he showed a complete lack of respect to the man. It’s behaviour like this which damages the public’s trust and confidence in police officers.

“This is a good example of the disciplinary process being effective in rooting out poor officer behaviour. As a result of the panel’s finding, the officer has been held accountable and will be barred from policing.”

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