Police officers believe there needs to be an urgent review of the stop and search protocols used when arresting suspects, following the fatal shooting of Sgt Matiu Ratana.
As the Metropolitan police and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launch investigations into the death of the popular 54-year-old custody sergeant, questions remain as to how it happened.
The suspect, reported to be a 23-year-old autistic man of Sri Lankan descent, was arrested by regular officers following a stop and search after he was seen behaving strangely. His hands were cuffed behind his back and he was taken to Croydon police station in a police vehicle. The IOPC has said he sat in a holding area in the custody suite, then shot Ratana while still in handcuffs as officers prepared to search him with a metal detector.
One officer said Ratana’s death was “heartbreaking” for those who had made the arrest and conducted the original body search. “The problem is, if someone has got a weapon – say it’s a small handgun, just a normal type – if you stuff it down the back of your backside, right down in your pants, then generally speaking a cursory search on the streets is not going to pick that up,” he said. “The police get accused of being over-intrusive on the street, so they handcuff people to make them safe, bring them back to custody where a more detailed search can be carried out. That process probably now needs to change.”
The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of class B drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, is believed to have shot Ratana several times in the heart. He then shot himself during the incident in the early hours of Friday. He is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.
Detectives are carrying out inquiries at four locations in both London and Surrey, where detailed searches are taking place.
No police firearms were fired and the case is not being treated as terror-related, the Met said. However, reports suggested the man had been previously referred to the anti-extremism Prevent programme.
The IOPC has obtained CCTV footage from the custody centre as well as body-worn video footage from the officers present. Accounts will also be taken from these officers.
Sal Naseem, an IOPC regional director, said: “A non-police-issue firearm, which appears to be a revolver, has been recovered from the scene. Further ballistic work will be required.”
Ratana is the eighth police officer in the UK to be shot dead in the last 20 years.
Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester, told the BBC the circumstances surrounding the death appeared to be “incredibly unusual”.
“There are procedures for searching prisoners before they are taken to police stations in vans or in cars; they’re searched again when they get to police stations and there are additional procedures because of screening for Covid,” Fahy said.
“It will be important to get out fairly quickly the circumstances, to see if there’s anything that can be learned about it.”