Met Police: Officers who handcuffed athlete Bianca Williams during stop-and-search face gross misconduct
Bianca Williams said: “I 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.”
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Five police officers involved in stopping, searching and handcuffing elite athlete Bianca Williams, while her baby was in the car, are facing gross misconduct charges.
Dos Santos was handcuffed and searched for weapons and drugs and Williams for weapons.
The couple’s then three-month-old son Zuri-Li was in the car at the time.
No weapons or drugs were found and the couple were released with no arrests made.
Now five officers, an acting sergeant and four police constables, are set to face disciplinary proceedings after the IOPC decided they have a case to answer for gross misconduct.
If proven, the officers could be sacked from the Met.
“A clear focus on the racism problem within the Met by the IOPC is long overdue.
"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."
Video footage of the stop was shared widely on social media, including by the couple’s trainer and champion athlete Linford Christie OBE, and attracted widespread condemnation.
Met top brass, including then-commissioner Dame Cressida Dick initially backed the officers, while the professional standards team reviewed body-worn video and found no misconduct.
However, the force later referred the incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), and Williams and Dos Santos made a formal complaint via lawyers two days later.
The accusations include breaching police standards for:
- Duties and responsibilities and equality and diversity, in the case of all five;
- Use of force and for authority, respect and courtesy, in the case of four officers;
- Honesty and integrity, in the case of three police constables;
- And orders and instructions, in the case of one officer.
While a sixth officer will be subject to a misconduct meeting.
Investigators examined why the vehicle was followed and stopped and whether “the force used against the couple was lawful, necessary, reasonable and proportionate”.
The watchdog also assessed the accuracy of officers’ accounts; whether the searches were in accordance with the officers’ “duties and responsibilities” and asked whether “Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos were treated less favourably because of their race”.
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “These matters were assessed as gross misconduct so it will be for the disciplinary panel, led by an independent legally qualified chair to determine whether or not the allegations are proven.”
Williams, who was visibly distressed by the incident, told the Guardian newspaper she felt obligated to speak out, and that her experiences left her feeling like “being black is a crime.”
The force initially said the car was on the wrong side of the road, had blacked out windows and had made off at speed before stopping.
The couple denied the allegations, saying they were false.
Neither athlete was arrested or interviewed for any driving offences.
Comments made by senior Met commanders were also criticised in the wake of the incident.
Dame Cressida told LBC Radio: "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… any officer worth their salt would have stopped that car that was being driven in that manner.”
And now acting commissioner, Sir Stephen House, told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee: “We have reviewed that stop and search twice by two separate teams of officers from professional standards. Neither team saw anything wrong with it.”
The IOPC has directed the Met to consider whether it should take action over his comments and whether it should apologise to the couple.
Dos Santos said the process had so far taken nearly two years, adding: “This sheds a light on how difficult it is to ensure the police are held responsible for their failings."
Lawyer Jules Carey who represents the couple, said the decision vindicated “my clients’ complaints that they suffered racism and dishonesty at the hands of Met Police officers”.
He added: “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."
London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “This incident was understandably deeply distressing for Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos, and I, like many Londoners, was disturbed by the footage of what happened.
“I welcome the independent investigation by the IOPC and its findings. It is important there is no further delay and these officers now face gross misconduct proceedings as soon as possible.
“This case is yet another example of why it is vital that the next commissioner has a more effective plan to tackle the serious cultural issues within the Met Police and to regain the trust of Londoners.”