On Friday, the court acquitted a policeman who repeatedly hit a young suspect with a baton.
The 52-year old officer had been charged with attempted manslaughter or serious bodily harm. The suspect had been 21 at the time of the incident. The Public Prosecution Office (OM) demanded 240 hours of community service and a one-day prison sentence.
On 18 January 2020, after a chase, the suspect suddenly jumped into a police car. The car had been blocking a garage the man had entered in Hoogstraat in Eindhoven. This was after the suspect had caused a collision on the nearby Bachlaan.
After the crash, the man, who was under the influence of drugs, fled. He vandalised cars and assaulted someone. Then he tried to escape in the police car.
He refused to get out of the vehicle or open the door. Two officers tried to pull him out. They also pepper-sprayed him. That didn’t work. The policeman in question arrived to assist his colleagues.
He began hitting the man with a baton. CCTV footage shows the officer striking the man 13 times in around seven seconds. The man was struck at least once on the head. He suffered a fractured skull. The officers were then able to pull him out of the car.
The violence used by the policeman was disproportionate, according to the OM. Officers are supposed to use their batons with only one hand. Suspects may also not be struck on the head. The cop on trial, however, used the baton with two hands.
And he did end up striking a blow to the man’s head. The officer also hit the man in quick succession. He didn’t wait to see if the blows had the desired effect, says the OM. They think that the policeman went too far.
Not according to the judge. The judge said an officer can be expected to act decisively and resolutely. However, they must be professional and controlled. In this case, the officer had to act in a very short time.
The other police officers had already used pepper spray. And the suspect continued to resist. That’s why the policeman use of heavier force is legitimised. It seems the accused officer had wanted to hit the man on his upper leg.
That’s what the police usually do in such a situation. This causes a ‘pain stimulus’. Camera images support this. The officer did strike hard. But without intending to do serious harm.
Moved his head
Suddenly, however, the suspect moved his head forward. That was while the other officers were still pulling at him. The accused cop then hit him on the head with the baton.
It’s not clear how serious the injuries were that the arrested man sustained. The man’s medical file doesn’t go into detail about that.
Translator: Melinda Walraven