Sheku Bayoh inquiry hears officers were in ‘impossible situation’

Pc Alan Smith told the probe it was unlikely for officers to be injured at a knife incident.

27 May 2022

A police officer said he and his colleagues were in an “impossible situation” during events leading up to the death of Sheku Bayoh, the inquiry into his death has heard.

Pc Alan Smith was giving evidence to the hearing at Capital House in Edinburgh on Friday.

This week, the inquiry heard from officers who were involved in the response to calls that Mr Bayoh was seen acting erratically with a “large knife” on Hayfield Road in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on May 3 2015.

At the time of the incident, Pc Smith had 10 years of experience in the police. He had training as a public response officer and an armed response officer.

Sheku Bayoh
Sheku Bayoh died in police custody in May 2015 (Handout/PA)

He told the inquiry that he had not been employed in these roles at the time when he responded to the call regarding Mr Bayoh, and instead responded to ad-hoc calls in these roles.

Pc Smith told the inquiry: “Situations like this are impossible.

“You’re trained to take in a lot of information, trying to do a lot of different things.

“If you are going to somebody with a knife you have a degree of fear. There’s potential that something could go wrong. There’s a little tension there.”

Pc Smith said it wasn’t “statistically” likely for an officer to be injured at knife incidents.

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
PC Alan Smith (right) arrives at Capital House in Edinburgh for the public inquiry into Sheku Bayoh’s death (Jane Barlow/PA)

The officer told the inquiry that initial communications from the police control room were unclear and he did not know what to expect.

He was asked about incidents he had attended prior to 2015 and he could not recall if any of them involved a black man.

Pc Smith confirmed he had engaged CS spray on two occasions before the incident with Sheku Bayoh.

The inquiry also heard it was “very rare” for officers to strike individuals with their baton when responding to knife incidents.

Pc Smith said: “I’m fairly certain I never struck anyone with a baton in relation to a knife incident.

“I may well have drawn it.

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
Pc Alan Smith gave evidence to the inquiry in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

“It wouldn’t be unusual to draw a baton or draw it and have it down by my side.

“It’s not regular if you’re doing it as an overt use of force.

“It’s a contingency.”

Pc Smith was also asked to account for his position in relation to Mr Bayoh when he was being restrained on the ground as well as the position Mr Bayoh was in.

He confirmed Mr Bayoh had been in a ‘prone’ position and he had been attempting to throw officers off when they were attempting to restrain him.

The inquiry will continue to hear evidence from Pc Smith and Pc Kayleigh Good on Friday afternoon before Lord Bracadale.

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