Young Black man in Brixton disabled for life by police who thought it funny…

Dateline: Brixton Wednesday 26 July 2000

Sherman Thomas is spotted riding a scooter that was alleged by police to be stolen. Met Police officers give chase and Thomas soon abandons the scooter and is seen running through the streets of Brixton.

Officers from Brixton Police station catches up with him and prevent any further escapade. Sherman is seen surrendering to police, however this didnt stop police from taking things a step further. The patrol car involved in the chase had initially stopped by the kerb, its driver now drove it up onto the pavement and pushed Sherman against a wall, breaking his right leg in the process.

Sherman says: “I didn’t think it was going to hit me, I thought they were parking up, because I stopped when they shouted at me to stop.

“When it hit me at first I was just in shock, I didn’t feel anything for the first minute. I looked at my leg and felt my bones were crushed, I saw blood coming through my trouser leg, and I felt the heat from the engine which was being revved up. Then all the pain kicked in and I couldn’t bear it.”

The initial investigation by the PCA revealed that back-up officers from Brixton who were responding to the scene had called the London Ambulance Service and joked about the victim’s plight. Transcripts show one of the officers laughing, saying “He’s conscious and screaming, yeah, teach him to nick mopeds.”

The ambulance operator replied to this, clearly concerned at the Met Police’s apparent amusement for its young arrestee, and said to officers, “It’s not funny, is it?”

On 6th April 2004 a protest was held outside Brixton police station, campaigners wanted the then un-named police officer to be sacked from the Metropolitan Police. 

Sherman said: “They took three-quarters of my life away – I can never get a job now where I have to stand on my feet.”

The Metropolitan Police refused to take any action nor publicly identify the officer. The Crown prosecution Service followed suit in declining not to prosecute. This surprised the main UK complaints body of the time – the Police Complaints Authority (PCA)

The Metropolitan Police Authority’s Complaints Investigation Bureau (CIB)* claimed the officer neglected his “duties in that you used a police vehicle as a moving barrier in a way that caused severe injury to Sherman Thomas when neither police officers nor any member of the public were confronted by a life-threatening risk justifying such an action.” (Source BBC)

In October 2003 Richard Offer from the PCA said: “We overruled the MPS [Metropolitan police service] and ordered that there should be a charge and a hearing. We gave the MPS a formal direction on August 29. We had a disagreement with the Met, they did not think a charge was appropriate and we did.”

Unfortunately the maximum punishment that could be given to the officer was the loss of a mere 13 days of pay. 

On 29 March 2004 the Met Police launched  disciplinary proceedings against the officer whose ID was by this time revealed. The officer in question, PC Graham Knight, denied the charges being pressed against him.

Sherman Thomas said at the time: “What happens now will not change my condition, but if the officer is held to account, I will at least be able to believe that the police cannot just do what they like and get away with it.”

Thomas had to undergo several operations to his leg and any aspirations he had for playing professional basketball were no longer possible. The irony of the case? No charge was ever made by the Met Police against Sherman Thomas. Clearly they had somehow realised he wasn’t the person they were looking for.

Postscript: There appears to be no record of what happened after March 2004 – that is, whether Sherman was successful or not in his action against the Met, or what other disciplinary action, if any, was taken against PC Knight.

Much like the O’Neil Crooks case (and many other cases that will be posted on this blog in due course) there is invariably a considerably racist police element – even though the word itself, racism, is barely mentioned.

*Note: CIB was the MPA’s Complaints Investigation Bureau. This has previously been known as CIB2. The other, CIB3, was the  the Anti-Corruption Command. CIB1 was the General Discipline department. The three CIB’s (1, 2 & 3) were merged in 2000 to become plain CIB. The CIB has now been replaced by the DPS (Directorate of Professional Standards.)

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