Police officer injured in training exercise sues for negligence
A police officer injured during a training exercise is suing the Bermuda Police Service for negligence.
Pc Joseph Reynolds broke his ankle while playing the role of a suspect during the exercise at Bull’s Head Car Park on October 30, 2018.
He was sitting in the rear passenger seat of a car during a “stop and search” training session, which was designed to teach officers how to extract suspects from a vehicle, arrest, and secure them.
A court heard this week how Pc Reynolds was approached by one student officer, Pc Dennis Joel, who attempted to make the “arrest”.
The hearing heard how Pc Reynolds swore and kicked out at Pc Joel, who backed off, at which point Pc Reynolds got out of the car in an attempt to “escape”.
Video evidence taken by training officers showed that the two constables then confronted each other and became involved in a tussle. Pc Joell held his colleague in a headlock before both men fell to the ground.
Pc Reynolds fractured and dislocated his left ankle in the fall, which required three surgeries to heal, the court heard.
In court papers, he claimed that he still experienced pain in the joint and had been unable to return to work or exercise.
He alleged that the BPS was negligent on nine counts, including failing to plan the exercise and implement safety controls, failing to stop the exercise before the accident happened, and failing to provide first-aid equipment at the scene.
Pc Reynolds also claimed that he was verbally instructed to be uncooperative during the exercise to make the simulation more realistic.
That claim was contested by lawyers acting for the Attorney General, who is the defendant in the case.
Giving testimony yesterday an expert witness for Pc Reynolds said the exercise could have been halted before the accident happened – but that supervising officers failed to react.
Eric Baskind, a UK university lecturer and a consultant in violence reduction, said that the exercise – to extract a suspect from a vehicle – became pointless as soon as Pc Reynolds got out of the car.
He added that, as soon as it became apparent that Pc Reynolds was going to be held in a headlock, training supervisors should have stepped in.
He said: “A headlock is not an authorised technique and so should not have been used. It’s a dangerous technique and therefore it should have been stopped straight away.
“I accept that it would have taken time, but only a second – only part of a second.
Mr Baskind also insisted that it was normal in police exercises for the officer playing the suspect, or “stooge”, to resist arrest.
“The norm for these exercises is to offer resistance,” he said, when quizzed by defence attorney Mark Chudleigh.
“The student has got to know that they can deal with it. There needs to be a degree of resistance. How much resistance depends on a number of factors.”
Mr Chudleigh countered that, although Pc Reynolds had managed to get out of the car, Pc Joell believed that the second point of the training session – to secure the suspect – was still in progress.
“He jumps back when confronted with a kick and then comes back at Pc Reynolds, but is rather hesitant,” Mr Chudleigh said.
“I would suggest the reason for that is that many things were going through his mind. He was not in a real-life scenario, but he was in front of his peers and he had an exercise to perform.”
In his summing up, Mr Chudleigh claimed that the incident was an accident in which nobody could be blamed.
But he added that Pc Reynolds had been instructed not to resist and should not have done so.
He told Justice Larry Mussenden: “There was no justification within the context of this exercise for engaging in physical contact.
“Certainly society in general has developed the view that when someone gets injured at work, someone is at fault. It is important to guard against that.
“Accidents happen, particularly in training exercises for the very violent world that police officers inhabit.”
Pc Reynolds is represented by attorney Ben Adamson.
Justice Mussenden will give his ruling at a later date.