A MAN who was arrested and held in a police cell died after taking an overdose of drugs which should have been taken from him, a police watchdog has found.

On 19 November 2017, Essex Police stopped a man in South Ockendon.

He was searched, then his vehicle was searched, and he was arrested for possession of Class A drugs with the intent to supply.

The man was then taken to Grays custody suite and placed in a holding cell.

A report by the Independent Office of Police Conduct stated a short time later the man became unwell.

The custody sergeant then called for a doctor and despite rapid first aid at the scene, the man was taken to hospital, where he later died. A post-mortem examination found the man had died from cocaine toxicity.

During the investigation, investigators collected CCTV, witness statements, and policies. Forensic analysis on some evidence was also conducted. There was no CCTV footage or body-worn video footage of the search.

The investigation focused on two officers' conduct and both were interviewed under misconduct caution.

The watchdog's report added evidence indicated that drugs were recovered from the man’s car and a tin containing drugs was later found in the man’s holding cell.

Following the man’s death, a ripped plastic bag was found in his jacket pocket.

It contained traces of drugs and what appeared to be the other half of the plastic bag was found in the back of the police car that the man had been transported in.

A watchdog spokesman said: "Based on the evidence available, we were of the opinion that a reasonable tribunal, properly directed, could find, on the balance of probabilities, that one officer’s search of the man had not been thorough; that the officer’s risk assessment may have been flawed, as the man appeared to have ingested cocaine during his search and arrest; and that the officer may have failed to provide adequate care and attention to the man by leaving him unattended.

"We were of the view that there was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable tribunal, properly directed, could find gross misconduct for the officer.

"We found no indication of misconduct for the other officer regarding their handling of evidence."

After reviewing the IOPC's report Essex Police determined the officer had a case to answer for misconduct only.

After the inquest into the man’s death had taken place, in spring 2019, Essex Police revised their determination to no case to answer for the officer.

The spokesman added: "We recommended to Essex Police that they reassess their case to answer to misconduct, which the force agreed to, after additional exchange of views.

"The officer attended a misconduct meeting in autumn 2019. At the meeting, the chair of the panel found the allegations that the officer had failed to take into consideration the potential risks and to adequately search the man to be not proven.

"The chair of the panel found the allegation that the officer had not provided the man with adequate care and attention to be proven."

The officer received a first written warning.