A police constable is facing the sack after being found guilty by a disciplinary panel of gross misconduct for using excessive force when she repeatedly hit an ex-footballer with her baton after he was Tasered to the ground.
An independent tribunal on Friday found that Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, a West Mercia police officer, acted wrongly when she struck Dalian Atkinson three times with her police-issue baton during an incident in the early hours of 15 August 2016, after which Atkinson later died.
The former Aston Villa striker died after being kicked at least twice in the head by Bettley-Smith’s more experienced colleague, PC Benjamin Monk, outside the victim’s father’s home in Telford, Shropshire.
After Atkinson was Tasered and kicked in the head by Monk, Bettley-Smith used her baton on him, claiming she “perceived” he was trying to get up, although several civilian witnesses recalled the 48-year-old “was not moving” and “was not resistant”.
Monk was jailed for eight years in 2021 after his conviction at Birmingham crown court for manslaughter.
Bettley-Smith was cleared of assaulting Atkinson after a trial but the Independent Office for Police Conduct found there was a gross misconduct disciplinary case to answer for her use of force.
While the panel found three initial strikes – before Monk’s kicks – were “lawful”, it found Bettley-Smith’s decision to then hit Atkinson another three times, after police backup arrived, were “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and therefore unlawful”.
The panel is due to hear evidence on whether the 33-year-old, who was a probationary officer at the time of the incident, should be allowed to keep her job or face a lesser sanction later on Friday.
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