Police officers under investigation over stop-and-search of athlete

Five Met Police officers are under investigation by force watchdog over ‘racially profiled’ stop-and-search of Team GB athlete Bianca Williams

  • Sprinter Bianca Williams, 26, and Ricardo dos Santos, 25, were searched in July
  • Williams has now described the confrontation as ‘awful’ and ‘racial profiling’   
  • Police commissioner Cressida Dick said there was ‘no misconduct apparent’
  • Three months on, the IOPC is investigating five officers involved for misconduct 

Five Met Police officers are being investigated by the force’s watchdog over the ‘racially profiled,’ stop and search of Team GB athlete Bianca Williams.

Sprinter Bianca Williams, 26, and her husband Ricardo dos Santos, 25, were hauled from their Mercedes and handcuffed in front of their three-month-old son in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, in July.

Three months on, five officers are being investigated for misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over stopping Team GB athlete Bianca Williams in a car in Maida Vale, London, in July, the Metropolitan Police said.  

The black athlete has previously called on Met Police chief Cressida Dick to quit and said she is planning on taking her concerns about the incident ‘down the legal route’.  

Commonwealth gold medallist Bianca Williams, 26, and her Portuguese sprinter partner Ricardo dos Santos, 25, were stopped and searched near their London home, with their three-month-old baby on board, in July

Speaking today 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.’ 

Dame Cressida Dick told MPs in July that she was ‘sorry,’ for the incident, but said Scotland Yard had found ‘no misconduct apparent,’ from the incident.

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Met Police Commissioner said: ‘Two of my officers spoke on our behalf to Miss Williams and I think all of us watching could empathise with somebody who is stopped in a vehicle, who has a young child in the back, who does not know what is going on and is subsequently found, together with her partner, not to be carrying any illicit goods or weapons

‘My senior officer has said ‘I’m sorry’ to Miss Williams for the distress we caused her, and I say that too.’

Met Police self-referred to the IOPC, but Dame Cressida said it was the force’s view that there was ‘no misconduct apparent’. 

She told MPs in July: ‘It is true that teams reviewed all the material we have, fortunately in the modern age we have body worn video, we have other video material including from the police vehicle, we have the evidence we have seen the two athletes have given

‘That was all reviewed by two separate teams and in terms of whether there was misconduct apparent, the view of my teams was there is no misconduct apparent

‘We have voluntarily referred to the IOPC because of the level of public concern 

‘Handcuffing must always be justified and the justification has to be in the law. I actually having seen a number of issues raised over the last several weeks have said to one of my senior officers can you review our handcuffing practices to make sure that it hasn’t become in any way a default in certain situations.’

This is the moment the Metropolitan Police stopped and handcuffed two of Linford Christie’s athletes outside their home in London 

A photo shared on Instagram by Ms Williams of the stop and search confrontation. She is to the right of the centre of the photo, with her three-month-old son

In a statement today, the Met Police said: ‘The began a detailed independent investigation into the incident and subsequently informed the MPS it had determined a number of officers should be investigated for potential breaches of the standards of professional behaviour.

‘The MPS responded, indicating it believed if proven, the failings would only amount to minor breaches of the standards of professional behaviour or performance-related issues. These would not be at the level of misconduct and so suitable for reflective practice. This process is outlined in statutory guidance and would be the appropriate way to address any points of learning for specific officers.

‘On Thursday, October 1, the IOPC responded that five officers would be investigated for misconduct. Notices have now been served on those officers informing them they are under investigation. The serving of notices does not necessarily mean misconduct proceedings will follow.

‘The officers involved are from the Territorial Support Group. No officer is suspended or subject to restricted duties.

‘The MPS continues to fully co-operate with the IOPC investigation.’

At the time the video surfaced, Sir Keir Starmer waded into the ensuing race row and said the video should make the Met feel ‘uncomfortable’.

But Williams has herself gone further and told Sky News that the Met Police commissioner ‘does need to think about her position to be honest’.

‘It’s a never-ending cycle and it’s not fair.

‘What are we doing so wrong that we’re getting stopped all the time and we can’t even get a simple apology from the commissioner?’

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist told of the incident: ‘To them the UK’s not racist, but the UK’s very racist. It’s heartbreaking to know that if it’s not us, it’s going to somebody else.’

She told of her heartbreak at being separated from her baby and said the video is still too upsetting to watch back.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he has spoken to Scotland Yard and will treat the allegations of racial profiling with extreme seriousness.

Scotland Yard insisted at the time that there was no evidence of misconduct on the part of its officers, and justified the incident saying the car had ‘made off at speed’ and was ‘travelling on the wrong side of the road’. 

The Mercedes also had ‘blacked out windows’, which are only illegal in the UK if they let less than 70 per cent of light through.  

But this account was rejected by Ms Williams, who said the car was ‘never’ on the wrong side of the road.

She told BBC Radio 4: ‘That is false, we were never on the wrong side of the road. We were driving down through single-width roads.

‘We only found out about us driving on the wrong side of the road once they tweeted in on Saturday afternoon.

‘This isn’t the first or fourth or fifth time – it must be about the 10th (her partner has been stopped by police), it’s getting ridiculous.’ 

Asked if the police racially profiled 400-metre sprinter dos Santos, Williams replied: ‘Yes, 100%’, adding: ‘It’s just horrible, it’s an outrageous assumption for them to make.

‘We are planning on taking it down the legal route. I feel very hurt by their actions, and to witness my partner being taken away and for me to be taken away from my son, my heart hurts. It’s an awful experience.’

Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams has called on Met Police chief Cressida Dick (file photo) to quit

Sir Keir Starmer today (pictured) claimed the Met Police should feel ‘uncomfortable’ after viewing the video of a black Team GB sprinter and her partner being pulled over in their Mercedes for a weapons stop and search

Boris Johnson, when asked about the incident and that the UK is a racist nation during a visit to Goole, said: ‘I don’t think that is true. I think that the UK has made incredible progress just in my lifetime.

‘But that doesn’t mean we’ve done enough and we’ve got to keep doing better and we’ve got to keep addressing people’s feelings that they face discrimination and prejudice.’ 

Labour leader Sir Keir claimed the Met Police officers were not justified in handcuffing the couple.

He claimed the incident was not handled ‘well at all’ and should make Scotland Yard ‘uncomfortable’.

He told LBC: ‘When they got to the car I didn’t really think they handled it very well at all. It was clear there was a very young child in the back.

‘The use of handcuffs is always controversial. I couldn’t actually see what the justification for that was. 

‘We will wait and see, it will be for the police to justify their actions…. But what I do know is if I was a senior officer looking at that video footage, I would feel uncomfortable about the way it was dealt with.’  

The clip appeared to show two people – a man and a woman – being pulled out of a car in a London street.

The woman says ‘he didn’t do anything’ and officers can later be heard telling the woman to calm down after she worries about her son remaining in the car.

A male voice can be heard shouting in the background towards the end of the clip. 

Ms Williams has slammed the police for ‘racial profiling’ – though the Met insists there is no evidence of misconduct on the part of its officers

The Olympic champion left a message on Twitter asking for an explanation after the athletes were stopped

Mr Christie questioned the reason behind the stop and suggested the police service were guilty of institutional racism 

The Metropolitan Police said the stop was necessary as the car ‘drove off at speed on the wrong side of the road’ and had ‘blacked out windows’ 

The video of Williams and dos Santos being stopped and handcuffed by police in front of her three-month-old baby was shared on social media by their trainer and Olympic champion Linford Christie.

Mr Christie has demanded an explanation after footage showed how the athletes appeared to be manhandled by members of the Metropolitan Police during the stop, saying it was proof of ‘institutional racism’ within the force.   

In a message addressed to the Met Police, he wrote: ‘Two of my athletes were stopped by the police today, both international athletes, both parents of a three-month-old baby who was with them and both handcuffed outside of their home.

‘Can Cressida Dick or anyone please explain to me what justification the Met Police officers had in assaulting the driver, taking a mother away from her baby all without one piece of PPE and then calling the sniffer dog unit to check the car over.

‘Was it the car that was suspicious or the black family in it which led to such a violent confrontation and finally an accusation of the car smelling of weed but refusing to do a roadside drug test. 

‘This is not the the first time this has happened. (second time in two months) And I’m sure it won’t be the last but this type of abuse of power and institutionalised racism cannot be justified or normalised any longer.’

The text also contained the hashtags BLM and MetPoliceRacist.

Linford Christie, pictured, questioned whether the car was stopped in such a manner because there was a young black family inside the vehicle

Mr Christie  asked Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to explain what happened

Linford Christie has accused the Metropolitan Police of ‘institutionalised racism’ after two of his athletes were stopped and handcuffed

Scotland Yard said officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards have reviewed footage from social media and officers’ bodycams and were satisfied there was no concern around the officers’ conduct.

The force said in a statement that a car was stopped in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, west London, after it was seen driving suspiciously, and a 25-year-old man and 26-year-old woman were searched. 

Commander Helen Harper said: ‘I understand the concern when incidents like this happen and how they can appear when part of it is filmed without context.

‘Due to the concern raised, we conducted a review of the stop. This included social media footage and bodyworn camera footage of the officers at the scene. We are satisfied that there are no misconduct issues.’

Police later said they were patrolling due to an increase in violence involving weapons.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he takes allegations of racial profiling ‘extremely seriously’ and that he has raised the case with the force.

In a statement responding to the incident, he said: ‘It is absolutely vital that our police service retains the trust and confidence of the communities it serves so that every Londoner, regardless of background or postcode can feel safe, protected and served.’  

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