UK: Police Officer Cleared of Misconduct Over Viral Arrest of Autistic Teenage Girl for “Homophobic” Question

Jack Hadfield

The West Yorkshire police officer who went viral after arresting an autistic teenage girl who dared to compare her to the family’s “lesbian nana,” has been cleared of misconduct in the incident, but has been forced to apologize and must undergo “reflective training.”

The incident, which occurred in August of last year, involved the 16-year-old girl being dragged from her house in Leeds by six police officers, who had escorted her home from the city centre at 1 a.m. after she had left the home in search of her adult sister.

“They said they would come [and] assist in getting her home as she is vulnerable, with her being diagnosed with autism,” the girl’s mother told Reduxx at the time. “When they arrived where my two daughters were, [the teen girl] refused to travel alone with them and wanted her sister to come with her, so she agreed.”

After dropping her off at home, the girl innocently compared one of the female officers to her “nana Julie,” who was a lesbian and had the same short, cropped hair.

At that point, the female officer responded by grabbing the girl, who ran and hid under the stairs.

“She’s getting arrested,” the female officer can be heard saying in frantic video taken by the girl’s mother. “Another unit’s coming, don’t worry … I’m telling you another unit is coming, she is going to get arrested tonight.” At one point, the officer says she “doesn’t care” if she has autism.

Video footage of the arrest subsequently went viral, with one officer appearing to twist the girl’s arm behind her back in an attempt to force her to stand up after she’d fallen.

West Yorkshire Police later confirmed in a statement that not only was the girl arrested on suspicion of a homophobic public order offence, but that the footage only shows “a limited snapshot of the circumstances of this incident,” adding that their officers “should not have to face abuse.”

On Friday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IOPC), found that the female officer involved in the incident, who has still yet to be named, was not guilty of any misconduct, but did use language that “was inappropriate and was not conducive to de-escalating the situation.”

The IOPC further concluded that “it would be appropriate for the officer to undertake reflective practice – to reflect and learn from the incident to prevent any issues identified from reoccurring, as their actions fell short of the expectations of the public and the police service as set out in the Code of Ethics.”

IOPC Regional Director Emily Barry continued: “We understand the video that was circulated at the time attracted considerable public concern and that is why it was important that the circumstances of this incident were subject to an independent investigation so we could fully understand what happened and impartially determine the facts.”

The investigation determined that a letter of apology should be sent to the girl and the family in an “attempt to remedy any dissatisfaction,” and that the officer involved should “work with their supervisor to reflect, learn, and improve from what occurred.”

The initial statement from West Yorkshire Police defending the officer has since been deleted from their website, although an archive is still available.

In October, the “lesbian nana” officer went viral for a second time, when she used pepper spray on crowds at an altercation on a housing estate in Leeds. 

The officer was once again cleared of misconduct for the pepper spray incident last month.

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Jack Hadfield

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