A black social worker who was Tasered and knocked unconscious during a roadside stop says police treated him like a “wild animal.”
Edwin Afriyie, 36, is suing City of London police after suffering a head injury and suicidal thoughts following the incident.
He was driving three friends back from a party in east London when he was pulled over by police in the City.
During discussions with officers he was Tasered and fell backwards, hitting his head on a stone window ledge.
Afriyie spent much of his working life trying to improve trust between young black Londoners and the police. Yet he believes he was singled out because he was a black man driving a Mercedes coupe.
“I was always a big supporter of trying to bring the police and the community together. I tried to push that so hard over my career.
“But who am I to do that now? I’ve seen for myself that no matter how much you try there’s still racism in the police.”
Officers told Afriyie they had pulled him over because they believed he was speeding but he denied this, pointing out the road had speed bumps.
They breathalysed him but the machine kept registering an inconclusive result. As the designated driver that night, Afriyie said he had not been drinking, but with no result, he was told he was going to be arrested.
He was asked to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed but did not, saying that he had been told to stop blowing into the device.
Body-worn video evidence is expected to show that his arms were folded and he was speaking to his friend when a Taser was discharged into his chest.
A civil case over the incident, which took place on King William Street on 7 April 2018 is due to be heard in London’s high court at the end of June.
It will argue that officers used unlawful force that amounted to misfeasance in public office. City of London police deny any liability.
The case comes as Priti Patel announced this week that volunteer special constables will be authorised to carry Tasers if they complete training.
Afriyie, who lives in Hayes, west London, said: “I’d done nothing for them to treat me like this and make me feel like a wild animal that’s escaped the jungle. If I was white I would not have experienced this in my life.
“I had done step by step everything that they had asked me to. I just felt violated.”
Police shouted warnings about a Taser but Afriyie said this did not register in the chaos when he was surrounded by five officers.
Reports from medical experts say he briefly lost consciousness and suffered a minor traumatic brain injury.
He was handcuffed while incapacitated on the pavement and escorted by ambulance to the Royal London hospital. His handcuffs were only removed after it was requested by medical staff.
“The police are here to protect and serve but I felt that I was a victim of a gang attack and the gang in question was the police,” Afriyie said.
Police records of the incident to justify the use of potentially lethal force contradict the video evidence, according to Afriyie’s lawyer.
In written accounts of the incident, one officer claimed Afriyie “reached for his pocket,” while others said he adopted a “fighting stance,” became “physically” aggressive and showed “aggressive resistance”.
Yet his lawyer Kevin Donoghue said body worn footage to be reviewed in court will show that none of this happened. He said that while Afriyie was vocally protesting, he presented no threat to officers and that there was no justification for Tasering him.
Donoghue said: “This was an overt abuse of power. The officers too readily considered using the most lethal force available to them too quickly.
“My client’s strength and threat level was pre-judged due to his ethnicity. Sadly, it is a common experience of black men in London.”
A psychiatric report says he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the incident.
He was off work for more than three months afterwards and had suicidal thoughts. In the aftermath, he describes severe headaches, “extreme” photosensitivity and dizziness.
He was charged with failure to provide a sample for analysis. But when the prosecution was ordered by magistrates to provide body-worn camera footage it dropped the case.
Ian Younger, Deputy Director of Professional Standards at the City of London police, said the force was aware of the civil claim and that “it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”