Five officers involved in high-profile stop and search case told they are being investigated for misconduct

Five officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) involved in the stop and search of two athletes in London earlier this year have been told they are the subject of misconduct investigations by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Oct 8, 2020
By Tony Thompson

Team GB athletes Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos were stopped and searched by MPS officers in Maida Vale, West London, on July 4. The incident was filmed by Ms Williams and later shared on social media by her coach, Olympic champion Linford Christie.

The footage showed the pair, who are both black, being removed from their vehicle after parking outside their home and placed in handcuffs. The pair were then searched. Nothing was found and no arrests were made.

The incident attracted widespread criticism and saw the MPS being accused of systematic racism. Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick subsqeuently apologised to Ms Williams for the distress the experience had caused her.

On Tuesday, July 7 the MPS recorded the matter as a public complaint after it was tagged in a Twitter post by Ms Williams, whose three-month-old son was in the back of the car at the time of the stop.

At this time, officers from the MPS Directorate of Professional Standards had already reviewed the initial material available, including examining the officers’ body-worn video footage, social media footage and details of the incident.

They were content at that early stage there was no indication any of the officers’ actions would amount to a breach of police standards of professional behaviour serious enough to justify disciplinary proceedings.

However, the MPS took the decision to refer the matter to the IOPC due to the complaint being recorded and the significant public interest in the matter.

The officers involved are all from the Territorial Support Group. None ohave been suspended or moved to restricted duties.

The IOPC today (October 8) announced that the five officers will be investigated for potential breaches of police standards of professional behaviour relating to use of force; duties and responsibilities; and authority, respect and courtesy.

A statement issued by the IOPC said that in relation to Mr Dos Santos, the potential breaches under investigation include: the manner of some of the officers’ initial approach to Mr Dos Santos; handcuffing Mr Dos Santos initially and keeping him in handcuffs after he had been searched; and his continued detention and whether there were grounds to do so.

In relation to Ms Williams the potential breaches include taking hold of her without first having sought her cooperation with the search; handcuffing her initially and continuing to handcuff her after she had been searched; her continued detention and whether there were grounds to do so.

The investigation will also look at why Mr Dos Santos’ vehicle was followed and stopped, whether the force used against Mr Dos Santos and Ms Williams, was lawful, necessary, reasonable and proportionate, and whether the pair were treated less favourably because of their race.

It has also since emerged that details of the couple’s three-month-old child were entered onto the MERLIN database, which stores information on children who have become known to the police for any reason. The IOPC will investigate whether there were legitimate grounds for such a report to be made.

Following widespread publicity, the MPS initially denied its officers had acted inappropriately but declined to release body-worn video footage of the incident. The IOPC will also scrutinise the accuracy of the accounts provided by the officers involved in the arrest and the appropriateness of the communications issued by the MPS at the time.

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “Having analysed a range of evidence including police body-worn, dashcam video and witness statements, we now have a fuller picture of the officers’ interactions with the couple and their child.

“As a result, we have taken the decision that this meets the threshold for a misconduct investigation, the allegations will now be investigated thoroughly and independently.

“It is important to note that a misconduct investigation does not necessarily mean misconduct proceedings will follow. Decisions on any further action will only be made once our investigation is complete.”

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