IOPC upholds cyclist's stop and search complaint against MPS officer

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has upheld a complaint made by a black male cyclist in London in November 2019 who was stopped and searched by an officer from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) who claimed he could smell cannabis.

Sep 10, 2020
By Tony Thompson

The IOPC ruled that the officer’s grounds for the search of Emmanuel Arthur in Euston – under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act – were not reasonable as the use of the smell of cannabis as a single ground is not good practice as set out in the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice on stop and search.

A second ground, later provided by the officer, was that he was concerned Mr Arthur was disagreeing with him over his cycle being over the white line at traffic lights as a way to distract him from the smell if he was in possession of cannabis.

He said he did not tell the cyclist this, however, as he did not want the encounter to escalate. No drugs were found during the search.

The IOPC has recommended that the officer receive reflective practice, with a focus on looking at what constitutes reasonable grounds for stop and search, particularly relating to the smell of cannabis.

A separate complaint in respect of discriminatory behaviour was not upheld as a review of the officer’s previous stop and search records suggested he used the single ground of the smell of cannabis to stop and search people of all ethnicities and genders.

The IOPC said in a statement: “This supported our view that he would benefit from reflective practice as it showed he often uses similar grounds when stopping and searching members of the public.

“We also recommended the officer would benefit from further reflective practice to consider the impact of the disproportionate use of stop and search on BAME communities, as it appeared the officer did not understand why Mr Arthur had felt racially profiled by him.”

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “Stopping someone on the single ground of a suspicion of the smell of cannabis is not good practice and it’s right that the officer will have to reflect on this.

“Our investigation found the officer had used the same approach on other occasions, but with people of all sexes and ethnicities.

“However, it’s still important to acknowledge that Mr Arthur felt racially profiled. The importance of police officers recognising, and being aware of, the disproportionate impact stop and search has on black communities in particular cannot be understated.”

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