A police officer who used "brute force" when he struck a young woman "as hard as I was physically able" while arresting her was removed from frontline duties today.
Pc Anthony Mulhall, of South Yorkshire Police, said he hit Toni Comer, who was 19 at the time, to subdue her so she could be handcuffed during the incident outside the Niche nightclub in Sheffield last July. The incident was captured on CCTV.
Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, of South Yorkshire Police, said the move was to protect his officer and restore public confidence in the police. Ms Comer, now 20, is pursuing a civil action against the force.
Speaking outside police headquarters in Sheffield, Mr Hughes said: "When I saw the footage I was horrified. What also horrifies me is that this whole incident is being pinned on a few seconds of CCTV.
"This morning I have had the opportunity to see the rest of the footage which shows the rest of the incident.
"It’s always disappointing when you have only been notified earlier in the evening that there is a piece of dramatic footage about to be shown on a late-night television programme.
"What I was disappointed with was that we weren’t in a position to give the full circumstances at the time and so it’s important that we reassure the public that there is more to this case than meets the eye and that we are fully co-operating with the Independent Police Complaints Commission so that they get all the evidence and can form a judgment."
He said he had not spoken directly to Pc Mulhall and the officer had been taken off public contact duties.
He said: "The deputy chief constable has decided that for the protection of public confidence and for the protection of the officer, he will not be on public contact duties until we can make a decision in due course with the IPCC."
The Chief Constable said it was part of the use of the "force continuum" to strike people. He said: "We live in a difficult and dangerous world where many of my colleagues are assaulted on a daily basis.
"It’s not the size of the dog in the fight it’s the amount of fight in the dog. The police officer does not determine how long the fight lasts, the offender does."
He said there was a continuous disturbance and the officers were attempting to handcuff Ms Comer.
The Chief Constable said Pc Mulhall brought the incident to the attention of the custody officer on the night and Ms Comer agreed with the circumstances which he described.
He said: "The circumstances of any assault by the public on the police are such that officers need to have a wide range of techniques to deal with them and it’s through the officer that we first understood that he had to use these techniques."
He said it was important to reassure the different communities about the values of the police service: "Our community representatives are out speaking to people so that they understand that there is more to this incident, and we have taken the Black Police Association fully into our confidence in respect of the material available."
He said Ms Comer did not require medical attention on the night and did not report to officers that she had suffered an epileptic fit. He said he respected Ms Comer’s family and their desire to protect their daughter but the most important thing was to hear from those people who were at the scene at the time.
He said: "I entirely welcome the IPCC investigation and we look forward to showing them all the evidence and material that we have."