Two officers who were found guilty of misconduct after a former Huddersfield man died in the back of a police van have been cleared after an appeal.
Insp Richard Bills and Sgt Jason Bromley were handed 12-month written warnings for ‘showing a lack of diligence’ in failing to send former Dalton man Adrian McDonald for a medical assessment.
The officers launched an appeal against the ruling and an independent tribunal hearing found they acted with ‘total professionalism.’
The decision comes more than three years after Adrian, who had been living in Stoke-on-Trent, suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.
Tribunal chairman Sam Stein QC said: “There is no outcome of this process that could ever satisfy the members of Mr McDonald’s family who have so patiently, and with such dignity, attended these hearings. We can only repeat that we are very sorry for your loss.”
Police had responded to a 999 call from a flat in Audley Road, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, on December 22, 2014 where Adrian had barricaded himself into a room.
The 34-year-old had to be Tasered and was twice bitten by a police dog before being placed in the back of a van.
But he started pleading for water and struggling to breathe before suffering the fatal cardiac arrest within six minutes.
After his death the Independent Police Complaints Commission launched an investigation into how the incident was handled and brought charges of gross misconduct against Sgt Bromley, Insp Bills and a third officer, who was later cleared with no further action.
The subsequent disciplinary hearing in September cleared Sgt Bromley and Insp Bills of gross misconduct after an NHS expert ruled Adrian would still have died even if he had reached custody.
They were instead found guilty of the lesser charge of misconduct after the panel criticised the officers for delays in checking up on Adrian.
An independent police appeals tribunal – consisting of Mr Stein, Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly and retired police inspector Steve Douglass – cleared both officers following a two-day hearing at Tillington Hall in Stafford.
Speaking after the case, Keith Jervis, chairman of Staffordshire Police Federation, which had supported the officers, said he was shocked they had been found guilty in the first place.
He said: “You have to have sympathy for Mr McDonald’s family as a man has died and they want answers and will want to point the finger of blame. But on this occasion the officers involved were absolutely professional and did nothing wrong.
“They did a completely professional job in dealing with an extremely violent man and calming him down. The medical evidence was given before which said that even if they had taken him to custody or to hospital he would have died. They were in a no-win situation.
“When his health deteriorated they got him out of the van and started to work on him. They did the best that they could and gave him the best chance of surviving.
“The whole incident was captured on body worn camera and they acted in the most professional way with a man who had been extremely violent.”
Insp Bills has since retired, while Sgt Bromley remains with Staffordshire Police.
Mr Jervis, a warranted police officer, said: “Richard Bills had more than 30 years of unblemished service with the force and was an absolute professional. He can now retire with that record in tact. Jason Bromley can also continue his career without a mark against his character.
“When these charges were first announced I would have liked to have seen the force support them, but as a Federation that is what we have done.”
In a statement, Staffordshire Police said: “This was an independent appeals panel and we respect today’s findings. Our thoughts and condolences remain with the loved ones of Adrian McDonald.”
An inquest into Adrian’s death will take place in front of a jury at Hanley Town Hall, Stoke, from November 12 until December 7.