The 23-year-old drowned last year after he was chased by police on a dark towpath — but ‘critical’ evidence was lost
A Metropolitan Police officer has faced misconduct allegations over the death of a Black man in a north London canal, a watchdog investigation has said.
Lamont Roper, 23, drowned last year in the River Lea in Tottenham, north London, after he was chased, and involved in a tussle, with police on an electric bike along a dark towpath.
A seven-day inquest at Barnet Coroner’s Court discovered last week that he fell into the lock rather than jumping as initially claimed by the police.
Following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation, one officer faced misconduct allegations after it was found they failed to activate body worn video in line with force policy before Mr Roper fell into the river at around 9.15pm on 7 October 2020.
The officer claimed it was too dangerous to do so while “spontaneously pursuing on a bicycle in the dark” however he had been placed under restrictions four months earlier for not switching on the video on previous occasions.
“It was our view there should have been heightened awareness of the need to activate it because, less than four months earlier, the constable was placed under restrictions preventing deployment without BWV and to ensure it was on when dealing with operational matters,” the IOPC said.
“We noted that the other two officers had switched on their BWV at the start of the incident.”
The watchdog added: “While there was nothing to suggest police contributed to Mr Roper’s death, it was our view that the failure on the part of one officer to activate body worn video from the outset meant critical evidence was not available to this investigation.
“Previous cases have shown the vital importance of transparency when people tragically lose their lives after direct contact with the police. Had the officer activated the camera at an earlier point, the footage could have provided Mr Roper’s family with clarity as to how he came to enter the water.”
The IOPC also found that one officer used a reasonable amount of force during the struggle with Mr Roper and the evidence supported the officer’s rationale in “releasing” him, prior to his fall into the river, fearing Mr Roper may have had a weapon.
The young man was one of four men on electric scooters and bicycles who fled when approached by three police officers patrolling on bikes along the towpath between Ferry Lane and Markfield Park.
During the inquest, which ended on 30 November, the jury heard that there was a four minute delay in rescuing Mr Roper and found that there were insufficient resources for water rescue alongside the canal, a lack of sufficient police resources on patrol and a shortage of specialised on call rescue team divers.
The coroner also ruled that there was no link between police actions and Mr Roper’s death.
Following this verdict, the Roper family, in a statement provided by Eva Roszykiewicz of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, said: “We are disappointed by the outcome of what we had hoped would be a robust inquiry into the circumstances of our beloved Lamont’s death.
“We have spent the last 14 months praying that this inquest would bring us some much-needed answers as to the circumstances of his death but today we feel no closer than we were when we first learned of his passing.
“We are relieved that the jury agreed with us that Lamont did not jump into the canal voluntarily but instead fell, despite what was told to us by the Metropolitan Police Service and supported by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”
They added: “At the end of this inquest, we feel no reassurance that another family will not one day soon be grieving the loss of their loved one in similar circumstances.”