Chelsea Bridge death: family bring test case against police watchdog | Independent Office for Police Conduct

The family of Oladeji Omishore, who drowned in June shortly after he was shot with a stun gun by police, are taking the police watchdog to the high court in a test case, accusing them of failing to properly investigate the officers involved.

Omishore, 41, who lived close to Chelsea Bridge in south-west London, had stepped out of his home on 4 June this year when the incident happened. He was experiencing a mental health crisis, which his family say police should have tried to de-escalate. Two officers discharged their Tasers multiple times, Omishore fled and jumped into the Thames and drowned.

The two Metropolitan police officers who fired the Taser shots remain on full operational duties. The Independent Office for Police Conduct, which is investigating the incident, is treating the officers as witnesses.

The family say the IOPC has acted unlawfully by not correctly applying its own criteria about when to order a criminal or a conduct investigation into the actions of officers after a serious incident.

A legal action was started last month and the family hoped the IOPC would agree to change its decision to treat the two officers as witnesses. But in its response to the legal letter, the IOPC stood by its decision, so the family are now taking the watchdog to the high court.

They hope to bring about changes that they believe will better hold the police to account and also help other families in similar situations.

Omishore’s father, Alfred, said the IOPC’s decision to continue to treat the police who fired at his son as witnesses was “rubbing salt into the family’s wounds”.

Omishore’s sister Remi said the response by the IOPC had not weakened the family’s resolve. “This is not going to shake our confidence in bringing justice for our brother’s death. We won’t give up the fight until we see changes and accountability,” she said.

The family are still reeling from their loss and are struggling with trying to campaign for justice and raise awareness and funds for the high court action.

Omishore’s sister Aisha got a breaking news alert about the incident soon after it happened. “Not in my wildest imagination did I consider it could be my brother,” she said.

The family are upset that incorrect information was initially released that Omishore was holding a screwdriver. In fact, he was carrying a plastic and metal firelighter. They say they have not received an apology about this.

They hope the high court action will bring about real change. “That is why we are fighting this fight. Our brother was a good man, a compassionate man. Nobody deserves to die like this. We are using our pain to turn it into passion to effect meaningful change,” Remi said.

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Selen Cavcav, a senior caseworker at the charity Inquest, which is supporting the Omishore family, said: “When there are serious questions about the role of police officers in a person’s death, there should be a robust investigation of the highest standard, to ensure that the police are held to account. Yet the Independent Office for Police Conduct regularly fails to undertake conduct or criminal investigations of police officers involved in deaths, even where there is strong evidence to call their behaviour into account.”

A Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “We are cooperating fully with the IOPC’s investigation. While their findings will be released upon the conclusion of their investigation, to date the IOPC have not indicated there is any indication the officers involved may have breached the standards of professional behaviour or committed a criminal offence. The officers involved in this incident remain on full duties.”

An IOPC spokesperson said: “We are committed to carrying out a fair and thorough independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Omishore’s death and the actions of the police officers at the scene.

“We have recently responded to correspondence from the legal representatives for the Omishore family. We appreciate the family have a lot of unanswered questions and we have communicated our rationale for treating the officers involved as witnesses and explained why there is no indication at this stage that the officers may have breached police professional standards or committed a criminal offence.

“This will continually be kept under review during our investigation. Our sympathies remain with Mr Omishore’s family and friends and we are committed to keeping his family updated as our investigation progresses.”

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