Relatives of the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town star said Pc Benjamin Monk “should never have been working for the police” when he used excessive force in kicking the 48-year-old in the head at least twice.
Monk was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter, after jurors heard that he left two bootlace imprints on the former Premier League star’s forehead – following an “excessive” 33-second Taser deployment.
Monk’s six-week trial was told he was “not honest” after the death of Mr Atkinson, who died in hospital around an hour after an ambulance was called to the scene near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, on August 15 2016.
Jailing Monk at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Melbourne Inman QC told the 43-year-old: “You have let yourself and the force down.
“Although they were difficult, you failed to act appropriately in the circumstances as they developed, and you used a degree of force in delivering two kicks to the head, which was excessive and which were a cause of Mr Atkinson’s death.
“The obvious aggravating factor is that you committed this offence while on duty as a police officer.”
It emerged on Monday that Monk had been found guilty of gross misconduct five years before he killed Mr Atkinson, after failing to mention two cautions on his application form to join the West Mercia force in 2001.
The court heard that he kept his job in February 2011, a year after details of the cautions came to light, despite being found to have breached required standards for honesty and integrity.
In a statement after the case, Mr Atkinson’s siblings Paul, Kenroy, Elaine and Otis, said: “Pc Monk used horrendous violence against Dalian, who was in an extremely vulnerable position, in mental health crisis, and needed help.
“This was a callous attack and a terrible abuse of a police officer’s position of trust.
“He then failed to give a full and honest account of what happened, including at his trial.
“We are pleased that all these factors have been reflected in the sentence.
“We were shocked to learn that Pc Monk was not sacked in February 2011 for gross misconduct for his dishonesty; he should never have been working for the police in August 2016 and Dalian should not have died.
“We pay tribute to all the bereaved families of black men who have died at the hands of the police and whose fight for justice has not led to successful prosecutions.
“It shouldn’t take the death of a famous footballer for the criminal justice system to work properly and we hope that more families can secure justice in future regardless of whether the deceased is a high-profile person.”
Addressing the court on Monday, prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC said Monk was cautioned for theft from a shop while employed at a Woolworths store in 1997.
“There was a further caution in 1999 for being found drunk.”
The court was told that the warnings were not recorded on a computer system because of policies at the time for dealing with spent cautions.
According to the charity Inquest, Monk is the first police officer in England and Wales to be found guilty of unlawful killing over a death in custody or following police contact, since 1986.
Passing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Inman told Monk, who showed little emotion: “The obvious aggravating factor is that you committed this offence while on duty as a police officer.”
“The police play a central and important role in upholding the rule of law in our society. The sentence must reflect the importance of maintaining public confidence in our police.”
Monk was ordered to serve two-thirds of his eight-year sentence before being entitled to release on licence.
Monk, who denied murder and manslaughter, claimed to have acted in reasonable self-defence while “terrified” of Mr Atkinson, who had a heart condition, was undergoing dialysis treatment, and was smaller and lighter than the officer.
During his sentencing remarks, the judge told Monk: “It is clear from the evidence at the scene that you were trying to control Mr Atkinson.
“I am satisfied from all of the evidence I heard that you did not suddenly change and decide to gratuitously intend to cause harm falling just short of really serious injury.
“I accept therefore… that this was wholly out of character for you and I accept you have genuine remorse.”
But images of two separate areas of head injury accepted to match Monk’s bootlaces were uncovered by forensic examinations using polarised light, proving his account was false.
As well as the marks to both sides of Mr Atkinson’s forehead, a pathologist found 15 areas of “under-the-skin” bruising, including marks to his neck, shoulder, shoulder blade, flank, buttock, thigh, bicep, elbow and shin.
Reacting to the verdict against Monk last week, West Mercia Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones said she was “sincerely sorry” and offered her “deep condolences” to Mr Atkinson’s family, who had “demonstrated great dignity and strength throughout”.
She added that the force had “much to do” to “strengthen those bonds” with the communities it served.