The incident happened in Loughton High Road earlier this month
The man and his girlfriend were detained in Loughton High Road at around 2pm on Saturday, 3 October.
During the incident, he was sprayed in the face by officers.
The couple were subsequently let go and Essex Police referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said: “We are investigating the circumstances of this incident including the identification, detention and arrest of the couple as suspects. Our investigation will also examine whether the force used on the man was reasonable, necessary and proportionate, whether his treatment was influenced by his race and the aftercare provided to the man. We have begun gathering statements from officers and witnesses and reviewing footage of the incident.
“It is important we establish exactly what happened during the incident and we are aware there were a number of people who may have seen or filmed all or part of the couple’s interaction with the police officers. Anyone who did is asked to contact our investigators to assist with our independent investigation.”
Witnesses can call 0300 303 5732 or email email@example.com
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