The Independent Office of Police Investigation (IOPC) has today announced that five Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers will face gross misconduct proceedings, and a sixth will face a misconduct meeting following their investigation into the stop and search of the elite athletes Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos on 4 July 2020.
Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos were stopped after being followed by Metropolitan Police officers as they were travelling in their car to their West London home from a training session. Police officers wielding a baton and glass cutter shouted orders at the couple to get out of their car. They were then handcuffed outside their home whilst their three-month-old son was in the back of the car. They were told by officers that they had been stopped on suspicion that they were connected with violent crime and may be in possession of weapons or drugs.
The MPS defended the stop on Twitter, after a video of the incident circulated on social media following former British sprint champion Linford Christie OBE tweeting about the altercation. The MPS alleged that the vehicle had ‘blacked out windows’, ‘made off at speed’ and ‘drove on the wrong side of the road’. The couple responded on social media to say that these allegations were false. The couple were not arrested or interviewed in connection with any driving offences.
Today the IOPC confirmed that five of the officers will face a gross misconduct panel in relation to alleged breaches of professional standards relating to ‘equality and diversity’. Three of the officers are also facing allegations of breaching standards of ‘honesty and integrity’.
Prior to the IOPC’s investigation, the former MPS Commissioner Cressida Dick at a parliamentary hearing and in the media publicly defended the officers’ conduct and devalued the experiences of Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos, and dismissed the grievances. The then Commissioner on the Nick Ferrari show told listeners:
I don’t personally accept that what we have seen so far on the video in relation to the stop of Miss Williams reveals racism. As you may know, the Independent Office of Police Conduct are looking at this and I of course wait to see what they say; however, having seen some of the footage myself, I would say that any officer worth their salt would have stopped that car that was being driven in that manner and secondly, my professional standards people have looked at it and they don’t see any misconduct.
The announcement of the IOPC decision has been welcomed by Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos. Ms Williams said:
I welcome this decision and hope this opens the door for the Met to start being more honest and reflective about the culture of racism which is undoubtedly still a reality within the organisation. A clear focus on the racism problem within the Met by the IOPC is long overdue.
Ms Williams, reflecting on the Commissioner’s comments, added:
I feel particularly vindicated by the IOPC’s decision in light of ex-commissioner Cressida Dick’s public efforts to discredit and undermine our complaints, and to trivialise the experiences of black people in the UK and how we are policed. I sincerely hope that the Met’s culture of sweeping these issues under the carpet ends with the former Commissioner.
Whilst welcoming this decision, Mr Dos Santos commented on how difficult it has been to hold the police to account. Mr Dos Santos commented:
This has been a long journey, and one which has not been easy. We have been engaged in this process for nearly two years, and who knows how much longer we will now have to wait for the conclusion of the misconduct proceedings. This sheds a light on how difficult it is to ensure the police are held responsible for their failings.
Jules Carey, partner at Bindmans LLP who represents the couple, said:
The IOPC decision is the clearest vindication of my clients’ complaints that they suffered racism and dishonesty at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers. The decision also serves to highlight how spectacularly unfit the former Commissioner was to tackle systemic problems in the Metropolitan Police Service. The force should apologise now to my clients for how its former chief publicly demeaned them and sought to undermine their complaints.
Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos are represented by Jules Carey, partner at Bindmans LLP, with the assistance of Christina Ashibogu and Nazdaneh Mahmoudzadeh.
Read the full statement from the IOPC here.