NEWS
29/01/2021 11:08 GMT

'Power Hungry' Police Officer Caught On Video Abusing Covid Laws

West Midlands Police said it was "sorry" the officer had threatened and abused the man, but did not say he would be taken off duty.

West Midlands Police have apologised for the actions of a “power hungry” officer who was caught on camera threatening to arrest a man on his way to work.

But it does not appear the officer, who is accused of targeting the passer-by because of the way he was dressed, will be taken off duty.

Video of the incident outside Dorridge railway station, Solihull, on Wednesday has been watched more than a million times since it was posted on Twitter.

As well as baselessly threatening to arrest the man, the officer calls him an “idiot” and seems unaware that the man has a legal right not to give his name.

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The force said the officer should not have challenged Nino Romano  

The man had been travelling to work when the officer, in a parked car, asked him why he was outside and whether he lived locally. Under the current Covid rules, people are allowed to travel for work if they cannot reasonably work from home, regardless of whether they live near to their workplace.

The force said it had reviewed the footage and found it to be “clear that the officer’s conduct fell far below what we would expect”.

“The officer has accepted his behaviour was not up to our high standards and we will address this as part of an action plan for his learning and development,” a spokesperson added.

Asked by HuffPost UK if he would face any further sanction, West Midlands Police said it had no comment.

The victim filmed what unfolded over two-and-a-half minutes, before his phone was apparently seized at the end of the video, as he was detained. He has since identified himself to the BBC as Nino Romano.

He told the broadcaster the officer was “power hungry” and said: “I’ve just got used to it, that’s how the police act with the younger generation. 

“I think they targeted me because of the clothes I was wearing – a tracksuit and a coat [...] the fact they feel entitled to stop people is a bit degrading [...] there were so many people around, why pick me?” 

In a statement, the force said it had reviewed the footage and found it to be “clear that the officer’s conduct fell far below what we would expect.”

It added: “The officer was with a colleague on patrol and part of their duties was ensuring people are adhering to Covid restrictions.

“The man explained he was heading to work – that’s clearly a justifiable reason to be out and about and there was no suspicion he had committed any offences.

“As such, he should not have been challenged in the way he was.”

As the footage begins, a male uniformed officer accompanied with a female colleague can be seen in a marked patrol car, on the street outside the station.

The officer then asks Romano, who is a few feet away: “What you up to?”

“I’m on my way to work, mate,” replies Romano, with the officer then saying: “You’re going to work – do you live round here, where do you live?”

When Romano gives the officer a street name, the officer says: “What’s your name, buddy?” with Romano replying: “Don’t worry about that.”

The officer then asks: “What do you mean don’t worry about it?

“We’re here to enforce legislation, mate, so I need to know who you are.”

Romano says: “You don’t need to know who I am – I haven’t committed an offence.”

“Do you want to turn your body-cam on?” he adds.

The police officer replies: “Yeah, if you want me to – but we’ll be dealing with this in a different manner now.”

The officer then gets out of his patrol car, followed by his female colleague, telling Romano: “Right then, under coronavirus legislation you have to provide me with some details, otherwise you’re going to be arrested.”

He adds: “So if you fail me to provide me with some details, you’re going to be arrested mate.”

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Nino Romano

As the incident continues, Romano says: “I’m going to get locked up for what? You’ve just pulled up on me, ask me for my name – I live round here.”

The officer replies he cannot be sure Romano lives locally and is “arguing”, adding: “So, that gives me reasonable suspicion that you’re telling me lies.”

Romano says: “You’re obviously just harassing me.

“Because I’ve got a hoodie on, I’ve got a coat on, I’m on my way to work, I’m a normal citizen.

“Why would I allow someone to just pull me over?”

The officer then replies: “We’re the police, we’re not just ‘someone’, you idiot.”

Romano adds: “What, so just because you’re the police, that gives you the right to stop anyone you want and get their details?

“You need to be reinformed about the law.”

Under stop and search rules, according to the government: “You don’t have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search or arrest you.”

Despite this, the police officer then detains Romano, putting him in the back of the police car, adding: “We’ll sort this out at the station – you’re going to be late for work.”

The force’s chief constable Sir David Thompson has continued to state, throughout the pandemic, that officers will use the “four Es” regarding the Covid regulations; engage with the public, explain the regulations, encourage people to follow them, and where there is no alternative, enforce.

In June it was revealed that police enforcing coronavirus lockdowns in England and Wales were six times more likely to issue fines to BAME people rather than white people.