Probe finds Vic police force was lawful

·2-min read

A probe into a Victorian police officer who was filmed stomping on a man's head has found his actions were lawful, but called for increased mental health training across the force.

A senior constable was suspended with pay last year after footage on social media appeared to show him kick Timothy Atkins' head while he was on the ground during an arrest.

Police treatment of the 32-year-old father who has bipolar disorder came under criminal investigation by Victoria's corruption watchdog, which on Friday published its findings.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commissioner Robert Redlich said the September 13 incident in Epping was "dynamic and unpredictable".

"Police were dealing with an agitated and distressed person having a mental health episode, and whose actions had the potential to endanger themselves, members of the community and the police officers," he said.

"Victoria Police officers used escalating levels of force in their attempts to get the situation under control.

"Less forceful options such as verbal directions, capsicum spray and a baton strike were used first, but did not work."

Commissioner Redlich said police body worn camera footage, CCTV and other recordings were reviewed as part of the investigation.

"Considering all the evidence gathered, IBAC found the force used by police officers at the scene was lawful in the circumstances," he said.

However, the watchdog identified several areas of concern which it said presented "police misconduct risks".

These include police not informing Mr Atkins of the reason for his detention and not providing "appropriate aftercare" after exposing him to capsicum spray.

Two officers also directed "unprofessional comments" at Mr Atkins, the statement said.

Other concerns included the failure of some officers at the incident to activate their body worn cameras, the use of a police car against Mr Atkins, as well as inaccuracies in police reports on their use of force.

The officers who attended the incident had not yet received training to improve their responses to mental health-related incidents, the watchdog said.

Commissioner Redlich said the investigation highlighted the importance of the recommendation from the royal commission into the Victorian mental health system for ongoing training for police to better handle such incidents.

"Where possible, health professionals, rather than police, should lead responses to people experiencing a mental health crisis, and responses requiring both ambulance and police should be led by paramedics," he said.

IBAC has written to the Chief Commissioner of Police Shane Patton with recommendations to take action and report back within six months.

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