A British police officer was allowed to keep her job on Friday after a disciplinary panel found her guilty of gross misconduct for unlawfully clubbing former professional footballer Dalian Atkinson, who died after another police officer used a stun gun and shot him at the kicked his head.
An independent police disciplinary tribunal issued police officer Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith a written warning after it was found that she unlawfully hit the black former Aston Villa forward three times with her baton after he was subdued by her partner during an altercation in August 2016 had been.
The West Mercia officer could have had her badge stripped by the Telford convening panel after she was acquitted of a criminal charge of assault.
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Bettley-Smith’s behavior was “serious indeed,” but she was on the sidelines, and her partner’s role was “several orders of magnitude different,” prosecutor Dijen Basu said at the hearing.
Constable Benjamin Monk was sentenced to eight years in prison for manslaughter in the 2021 killing of Atkinson.
Monk claimed self-defense and said he feared for his life after Atkinson made threats and smashed a glass door pane.
Monk used a taser on Atkinson for 33 seconds – more than six times longer than usual – and kicked him in the head at least twice, leaving shoelace marks on his forehead.
Police were called to Atkinson’s father’s home in Telford, central England, after neighbors reported disturbances.
The panel found that Bettley-Smith, 33, initially lawfully used her baton to hit Atkinson three times. But the beatings after he was kicked by Monk and left on the ground were “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all circumstances and therefore unlawful”.
Bettley-Smith claimed she noticed Atkinson trying to get up, although witnesses said he wasn’t moving.
Atkinson, 48, died in a hospital about an hour later.
Attorney Patrick Gibbs, representing Bettley-Smith, said the 6 1/2 years she had to think about that night “must be a significant punishment in itself.” Her behavior before and after the 27 seconds in which she delivered the last three punches was admirable, he said.
“This involves a miscalculation, in the heat of the moment, of the magnitude of the force that was yet to be used,” Gibbs said.
Atkinson’s sister said she was disappointed Bettley-Smith didn’t lose her job.
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“Our family was devastated by it, absolutely devastated,” she said of her brother’s death. “At the end of the day, Dalian is gone and it’s up to those officers.”
In December 2021, the West Mercia Police Chief apologized to Atkinson’s family and said she was deeply sorry.
“A police uniform does not give officers immunity from unlawful conduct or abuse of their powers,” wrote Police Commissioner Pippa Mills.
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Monk’s conviction was a rarity in Britain. A lawyer for Atkinson’s family said it was the first time in over 30 years that an acting officer was convicted of manslaughter related to his duties.
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