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Police In U.K. Use Stun Gun On Their Own Community Relations Adviser

A British police watchdog is investigating an incident last Saturday in Bristol in which an officer fired a stun gun at a black man who has served as a community-relations adviser for local law enforcement.

Judah Adunbi, 63, was incapacitated after a confrontation with two officers who apparently mistook him for someone wanted by police. In fact, Adunbi has volunteered as a member of an independent advisory group for Avon and Somerset police, a panel established to improve relations between police and the local communities of color.

A neighbor recorded the incident on video, shown above.

"Avon & Somerset police officers used the Taser on a 63-year-old man in Colston Road, Easton at around 9.10am," the Independent Police Complaints Commission said in a statement released Friday. "A complaint from a member of the public who witnessed the aftermath of the incident was voluntarily referred to the IPCC by the force on 19 January."

In the neighbor's video, two officers are seen stopping Adunbi outside his home as he was walking his dog. They refer to a wanted man they are looking for, and ask him for his name. Adunbi refuses to give his name several times as he attempts to enter his front gate.

Like everyone in the U.K., Adunbi has the right to withhold his name when stopped by officers, according to Avon and Somerset Police guidelines.

After a break in the footage, the video shows one of the officers apparently pulling Adunbi out of the gate by the arm. Immediately after that scuffle, one of the officers uses her Taser on Adunbi.

Once on his back, Adunbi appears to toss his wallet to the ground beside them, telling the officers to look at his ID as they handcuff him.

"You are under arrest for assault," one of the officers tells him. The charges were later dropped, the BBC reports.

"The way I fell, on the back of my head, I was just paralyzed," Adunbi later told the British broadcast network ITV. "I thought that was it. I thought they were taking my life."

He says his fear stemmed partly from a similar confrontation with police. In 2009, "he won a wrongful arrest case against Avon and Somerset Police and was awarded compensation," according to the BBC.

Since then, Adunbi has been a volunteer with the Bristol IAG, one of several groups that serve "a vital role in helping us build trust, confidence and better relationships, especially with our diverse communities," according to the Avon and Somerset police.

"It's a little distasteful in my mouth," Adunbi told The Guardian. "To know that one of the founder members of the independent advisory group, which was created some years ago in order to improve the relationship between the Afro-Caribbean community and the constabulary, and to be treated like this, it's difficult."

Chief Superintendent Jon Reilly, Bristol area commander for the Avon and Somerset police, says the force voluntarily referred the complaint about Saturday's incident to the watchdog IPCC. He said he would like to answer further questions but could not, given the ongoing investigation.

According to ITV, he added:

"I want to reassure the community the whole incident was captured on body-worn camera. Both officers were wearing it.

"And we're determined to understand what happened. That's why we've referred it, voluntarily, to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for them to assess whether an independent review is necessary.

"We work really hard to work positively with all communities and I can see no reason why that should change."

The IPCC has asked members of the Bristol community to come forward if they have any further information. The group said it has not yet spoken to the two officers involved.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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