Exclusive: Met Police stop and search black youth mentors who ‘looked at’ police car and ‘walked off’

The three young men who were searched work for Mentivity, which provides mentoring for at-risk children, while one of the organisation’s founders trains police officers about the impact of stop and search.

Met Police officers stopped and searched a group of young black men working as youth mentors for at risk-kids, after claiming one of the group “looked at” the police car and “walked off”.

Three young men who work for the Mentivity organisation based in Bromley, south London, were stopped and searched by Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers while on their lunch breaks.

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One of the organisation‘s founders provides training to Scotland Yard officers and City Hall staff on the impact of stop and search and cultural competency.

Officers stopped and searched young men working for a mentoring organisation. Photo: via Sayce Holmes-Lewis

The incident took place at around 1.40pm on Tuesday, April 12, in Walworth Road, Southwark.

No arrests were made and “nothing of concern” was found, the police confirmed.

Video footage shared on social media shows the officers stopping the three young men, asking for identification and informing them they are being searched for weapons.

An officer can be heard saying: “[We’ve] been tasked to the area. As you’re well aware, there’s been an increase in gang violence, knife crime robberies...”

One of the youth workers then asks: “Can you see who I work for? A mentoring company, at the community hub.”

The officer then tells him: “I don’t know who you are. I’ve never met you before. I’ve explained who I am and I’ve explained why we’re in the area.

“I’m sure you’re well aware of the issues in the area.”

Officers stopped and searched several young men. Photo: Sayce Holmes-Lewis

And the young man replies: “No, not really. I’ve come here to get lunch.”

The officer can be heard explaining the reason for the stop, saying: “As we were driving, and headed in this direction, I believe it was your friend, that on seeing our police carrier, he’s turned away and walked off.

“He’s looked at our carrier as we’re driving away. You were at the cashpoint - you weren’t looking.

“We were watching. What are you doing in the area?”

The young man again replies: “Getting lunch. I work for Mentivity.”

He tells the officer they work with at-risk children, and he has been working with the charity for four months, before the officer asks for identification, which he did not provide.

Anyone stopped and searched is not legally obligated to give details of their identity.

An officer put gloves on before searching one man. Photo: Sayce Holmes-Lewis

The officer says he will be searched for weapons and says: “You keep putting your hand in your left pocket, which you’re not showing on camera. So I suspect you might be in possession of a weapon.

“I want to make sure you’re not looking to escape, because people do do that.

“I don’t know who you are. You’re not providing me with details.”

The man replies: “That’s my right, I know my rights.”

Officers found no weapons on the young men, and no action was taken following the stop, the Met confirmed.

Sayce Holmes-Lewis, founder of Mentivity, who delivers training on cultural competency and stop and search to the Met and the mayor’s office for policing and crime (MOPAC), said: “The Met Police aren’t fit for purpose.

“They made these young men feel like criminals, whilst disregarding all they said and being childishly antagonistic.”

He added: “There was no real justification for the stop based on evidence, the main officer doesn’t understand his role, the law or how to engage people with respect.

“These types of officers aren’t needed or wanted. The TSG in particular are serial culprits.”

He added: “They were embarrassed by ignorant officers who failed to use their investigative skills by simply googling what Mentivity does in the community and the training we are currently delivering with the Met and the mayor of London around stop and search and cultural competency.

“We’ve got to keep holding the police to account and ensure that they respect us when carrying out their duties.”

A spokesperson for the Met Police said officers were deployed “as part of an intelligence-led operation to tackle gun and knife-enabled robberies and linked drug dealing”.

They said: “Officers’ attention was drawn to a group of men in Walworth Road.

“The group appeared to disperse on seeing the officers, with one person walking away, before regrouping again after officers had passed.”

They added: “The men were stopped and were informed that they would be searched, for weapons and drugs.

“No force was used and the men were not handcuffed during the search.

“Nothing of concern was found and no action was taken.”

The force said officers were wearing body worn video and that the force’s Directorate of Professional Services (DPS) had reviewed the footage.

They said: “They found that officers had acted courteously and had communicated well throughout the incident, explaining to the men who had been stopped about why stop and search is used as a strategic policing tool to combat priorities such as violence and drugs, but empathising about the impact we know it can have on those who are stopped.

“The review did not identify any wrongdoing on the part of the officers involved.”

Mr Holmes-Lewis said he had mentored the young men, who are all aged over 18, and had worked with some of them for several years.

“I’ve been doing the training with the Met and City Hall for the last five or six months,” he added.

“We look at cultural competency, stop and search and the impact of it on young men in particular.

“We haven’t trained the TSG but they should know about Mentivity.

“It’s just disappointing but its expected.”

He told LondonWorld they had been getting money from a cash machine to buy lunch and that the force’s claim they “appeared to disperse” was “false”.

The Met Police says the use of stop and search saw them seize 4,800 offensive weapons last year.

While the force says it understands the experience can be “intrusive” and embarrassing” and that it is redoubling efforts to listen to communities, while “deliberately targeting and putting more resources into areas blighted by higher levels of violence and other serious crime”.

City Hall was contacted for comment.